DOL’s acting secretary says she wants to hear farmers’ labor cost concerns

The Labor Department’s Acting Secretary says she’s aware U.S. farmers are struggling with the high cost of the H-2A guest worker program.

During a recent U.S. House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee hearing, Julie Su told lawmakers the department’s final rule setting the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) for H-2A workers considers public input to help employers meet workforce needs and provides labor safeguards.

“I’m happy to have my team come and talk to farmers who are affected by this to understand the impact of the rule,” she said. “The rule that we did actually affected a very narrow part of how AEWR is used.”

Michigan Congressman John Moolenaar countered in his district the impact is huge.

“Across the board, people growing fruit and vegetables are affected by this and they need desperate relief,” he says

The Acting Secretary was also questioned on how the department could help.

“We don’t want a program that will undercut the ability of US workers to have a good job,” she says.

“We also don’t want the compliance to be such that folks can no longer afford it,” Kansas Congressman Jake LaTurner replied.

Su reiterated the program tries to balance the needs of workers and provide wage protections as directed by Congress.

Farm Bureau analysis shows the mandatory base wage rates for H-2A workers increased more than 40 percent from 2018 to 2024, almost 60 percent above growth in the overall U.S. Employment Cost Index.

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