AFBF analysis on high H-2A wages

American Farm Bureau says demand for the H-2A guest worker program is three times greater than a decade ago and employees have seen wages increase more than a 30 percent.

The Department of Labor reports the 2019 fiscal year again saw a record number of positions filled, more than a quarter-million, with the most requests received in the second quarter.

Farm Bureau economist Veronica Nigh tells Brownfield Ag News, “Once you kind of dig into the data what you see is, it’s a wider and wider variety of farms of different sizes. You see more small and medium-sized farms starting to utilize the program.”

Nigh says farmers are rightly concerned about the programs high wage requirements, but, “The labor supply is tight! If there were folks out there that we could hire do you think that we’d be using a program that’s as expensive as the one that we’ve got?”

National wage rates for the program are expected to increase six-percent next year to $13.99 per hour.  Rates have increased every year over the past 10 years.

Nigh says there’s a reason immigration and access to labor has been a priority for Farm Bureau members for the past 30 years because it’s a “tough issue.”

AFBF does not support the Farm Workforce Modernization Act in Congress, saying it is deficient in wage and other areas.

Many farmers say the year-over-year wage increases are not sustainable, given low commodity prices and high inputs.

~Brownfield’s Julie Harker contributed to this story

Interview with Veronica Nigh November 14, 2019 at NAFB Convention

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