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Farmers turn to H-2A program amid wage challenges
USAgNet - 12/11/2023

The agricultural sector faces a significant challenge as wage rates continue to climb. According to a recent Market Intel report, the use of the H-2A labor program has hit new heights in the fiscal year 2023. This surge comes despite an increase in the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), which has outpaced the hourly wage growth of all private employees.

In fiscal year 2023, the total number of certified H-2A positions reached 378,513, marking a 2% increase from the previous year. While this growth rate has slowed compared to past years, it still represents a substantial rise of over 100,000 workers since fiscal year 2020. Additionally, farmers have faced a nearly 19% hike in the required wage rate since 2020, making labor one of their most significant expenses.

The distribution of these H-2A positions spans all 50 states plus Puerto Rico. Data reveals that 37 states saw an increase in certified positions, while 14 experienced a decrease. Notably, more than 10 states and territories witnessed double-digit growth rates in H-2A certifications.

AFBF President Zippy Duvall highlights the impact of rising wage rates on farm families. With farming and ranching being labor-intensive, the need for skilled workers is crucial for activities like planting, tending, and harvesting.

However, the slim margins in farming make these rising costs a significant burden. Duvall emphasizes the urgency of finding a workable solution for the H-2A program and the AEWR to help farmers maintain their operations.

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