Nov 28, 2018Ag group seeks labor wage relief for growers
In a Nov. 28 letter to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) asked for short-term relief from imposition of new wage rates for 2019 under the “adverse effect wage rate” (AEWR) for H-2A employment.
Writing to convey NCAE members’ serious concerns with the findings of the NASS Farm Labor Survey published Nov. 15, 2018 and, more specifically, the prospect that those figures will be used to set the AEWR in 2019, NCAE President and CEO Michael Marsh praised the efforts of the departments to improve the survey process.
However, he asked for more extensive changes to the wage-setting process that would employ state- or local-based prevailing wages, an approach that retains a market-based outlook, prior to making any changes to rates for 2019.
“The NASS Farm Labor Survey for 2018 indicates a nationwide increase in farm wages of 6.3 percent over 2017, with three surveyed regions of the Mountain West increasing 16 percent, 23 percent, and 15 percent, respectively, and increases of 6 percent, 7 percent and 9 percent in some of the largest agricultural production regions in the U.S. This ‘surveyed’ result comes at a time when average hourly earnings for all U.S. employment, agricultural and non-agricultural, remain under 3 percent and, more importantly, crop prices are level or decreasing from prior years.
“NCAE appreciates the efforts of your Departments to improve the survey process and asks for short-term relief from the imposition of these new wage rates for 2019 while that process continues. A requirement to pay a premium wage should, at a minimum, come with a finding that U.S. workers ‘similarly employed’ would actually be ‘adversely affected’ by the employment of H-2A workers at some other wage rate.”