Jan 29, 2024
GFVGA asks for more transparency for H-2A wages

The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA) has filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Department of Labor (DOL) regarding wage rates for workers in the H-2A temporary visa program.

New hourly rates for H-2A workers, known as the Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWR), went into effect on Jan. 1. Following a 21% increase in the wage in the last two years, Georgia’s AEWR is now $14.68. The FOIA requests are in addition to an earlier petition by GFVGA and other organizations asking the DOL to amend or repeal the AEWR methodology so that it conforms with the law that sets forth the rules for the program.

GFVGA legislative update

Facing increases that will cost Georgia producers an estimated $60 million in 2024, Georgia growers deserve to understand how both USDA and DOL collect wage data through the Farm Labor Survey and how this data was used to set an AEWR that is now twice the minimum wage in Georgia, according to a GFVGA news release.

Specifically, the request to USDA seeks to clarify:

  • Who is receiving and returning the Farm Labor Surveys;
  • Which wages are being included in the survey responses and used by the DOL to determine the AEWRs (such as: are wages of H-2A workers being included in the calculation of the AEWR); and
  • How does the USDA transmit the labor survey data to the DOL.

Similarly, the request asks the DOL to clarify:

  • Which wages are being included in the survey responses and used by the DOL to determine the AEWRs (e.g., are wages of H-2A workers used in the calculation);
  • How does the Agency use the Farm Labor Survey to determine or calculate the AEWR; and
  • Does the agency use any data or information other than the Farm Labor Survey responses as part of its calculation of the AEWR.

Congressional Action

Following appeals from both the Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and Commissioner of Agriculture Tyler Harper, we have seen recent action in the U.S. House of Representatives where 75 members recently signed a letter to House and Senate Appropriation Committees in which they raised concerns about the rapidly rising AEWR.

Cathy Burns
Cathy Burns

Last week, Rep. John Moolenaar from Michigan introduced the Supporting Farm Operations Act (H.R. 7046) that would freeze the AEWR for two years and clarify how primary job duties are determined.

“Out-of-control labor costs are already dampening domestic fresh produce production, so we know that additional increases would have a devastating impact on the entire supply chain,” Cathy Burns, CEO of the International Fresh Produce Association, said in a news release. “Congressman Moolenaar’s common-sense legislation freezes AEWR increases for two years, giving immediate relief and enough certainty for our industry to perform while Congress works on broader reforms that will bring stability to our labor force and long-term food security for our nation.”

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