New H-2A Wage Rates for 2020 Published

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On December 19, the U.S. Department of Labor is publishing a Federal Register notice announcing the new “adverse effect wage rates” (AEWR) that must be paid to H-2A agricultural visa workers as well as U.S. workers considered to be in “corresponding employment.” The new rates take effect in two weeks, or January 2, 2020.

A few reflections on the numbers. The national average increase is roughly 5.6 percent. Most states see an increase of four percent or more. The largest increase, 9.5 percent, will hit growers in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. The smallest increase, 1.0 percent, applies in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Colorado, Nevada, and Utah, which saw a crippling 22.8 percent increase in 2019, sees a painful 8.6 percent increase this year.

Our greenhouse and nursery growers using or considering H-2A desperately need “cost relief.” The Farm Workforce Modernization Act that just passed in the House of Representatives would bring some relief, with a one-year AEWR freeze and a future cap on annual increases of 3.25 percent in most states. However, efforts to develop Senate legislation are in the early stages; there is no realistic fast path for legislative relief. Stay tuned…

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