H-2A codes could bring big wage increases

American Farm Bureau analysis finds farmers in the Midwest are the most likely to be impacted by Department of Labor wage changes for H-2A seasonal farm workers.

Economist Veronica Nigh tells Brownfield H-2A positions vary significantly from state to state and new rates could now be two to three times higher depending on how paperwork was filed.

“This could potentially limit farmer’s ability to stay in business and frankly seems rather subject to the whim of individual reviewers,” she says.

About 40 percent of workers last year in Iowa and South Dakota were coded for jobs outside of primary farm work, like truck driving, and could see wages increase by more than 40 percent under the new methodology.

Nigh says many of the positions filled in the Midwest are categorized as large equipment operators, one classification that has significant increases under the department’s new rule.

“South Dakota 35 percent, Nebraska 30 percent, Kansas almost 70 percent of all of their H2A positions were classified as equipment operators,” she says.

And she says employers aren’t expected to know if wages will change until the beginning of July when the department releases final numbers.

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