Meat & Livestock News

H-2A Guest Worker Wage Increases Pose Challenges for US Farmers, Says Farm Bureau

Portrait of mature man wearing jacket and cap posing outdoor in meadow with chainsaw in hands, looking in distance with pensive expression, looks around before working.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is raising concerns over the fluctuating and often high wages for H-2A guest workers, a situation that is increasingly challenging for farmers across the United States. John Walt Boatright, the Director of Government Affairs at AFBF, spoke to Brownfield about the significant impact of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) increases on the agricultural sector.

Boatright highlighted that the repercussions of the AEWR hikes are widespread, affecting states that traditionally do not face labour issues. He emphasised the need for a revision of this rule, which he described as burdensome. Since 2019, wages under the H-2A program have seen an average annual increase of nearly six percent.

These rising costs are having a tangible impact on farmers. Boatright shared stories of producers who are either shifting to less labour-intensive crops or exiting agricultural production entirely due to the financial strain. The Farm Bureau has projected that in 2024, nearly half of the states will have H-2A wages ranging between $17 and $19 per hour.

However, when additional expenses such as housing and transportation are factored in, the actual cost of the program is closer to $30 per hour.

Boatright mentioned that there is legislation in Congress aimed at temporarily halting these wage increases.

However, he stressed the need for a more permanent solution to address this issue. This topic was a key point of discussion during the Indiana Farm Bureau State Convention, where Brownfield interviewed Boatright.