H-2A wage rates published by the Department of Labor ( Data courtesy Department of Labor; Graphic by Brooke Park )

Seeking to stop higher 2019 wage rates for the H-2A guest worker program, the National Council of Agricultural Employers has filed a court action against the Department of Labor.

The Washington, D.C.-based NCAE said in a news release that it asked the federal district court for the District of Columbia to enjoin the U.S. Department of Labor from implementing new Adverse Effective Wage Rates for 2019.

The Department of Labor recently published the 2019 adverse effective wage rates, which dictate minimum wage rates for the H-2A program.

The 2019 adverse effect wage rate for California is $13.92 per hour, up 5.6% compared with $13.18 per hour last year. For Washington state, the 2019 adverse effect wage rate is $15.03 per hour, up 6.4% from $14.12 per hour in 2018. The 2019 wage rage for Colorado was $13.13 per hour, up 22.8% from just $10.69 per hour in 2018.

The overall national average adverse effect wage rate for 2019 is $12.96 per hour, up 6.2% compared with $12.20 per hour a year ago.

In the filing, the NCAE states that the group “bring this action seeking emergency relief from the Department of Labor’s plan to impose arbitrary and unsubstantiated cost increases on American farms and ranches. The Department’s actions are contrary to the directions and intentions of Congress and must be enjoined as soon as possible to avoid disastrous and irreparable outcomes.”

Michael Marsh, president and CEO of the NCAE, said in the release that the adverse effect wage rate is designed so that domestic U. S. workers will not be adversely affected by the employment of temporary agricultural workers under the H-2A visa program.

“Yet DOL has not offered any data to demonstrate adverse effect and instead has simply imposed additional costs on family farmers and ranchers who have no means to recoup these costs from the marketplace putting their families’ futures in jeopardy,” Marsh said in the release.

Late last year, NCAE had written a letter to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Labor asking that they intervene in not implementing the 2019 adverse effect wage rate, which the group called “unsustainable.”

The release said NCAE has been working with Congress to direct the Department of Labor and Department of Agriculture to conduct an analysis of whether any adverse effect exists and share that analysis prior to a determination on program criteria.
Marsh said in the release that users of the guest worker program must have wage relief.

“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 rate,” he said in the release.

Submitted by kerr lee on Tue, 01/08/2019 - 15:54

So the NCAE is not in agreement with the idea that cheap foreign labor adversely affects the wages of US workers. Does this jeopardize the use of the same rationale for disparaging illegal immigrants or are illegal immigrants only gang members? No farm workers in that set?

Submitted by Awareness guy on Thu, 01/31/2019 - 17:58

Such an ignorant view point...$15.03 constitutes cheap foreign labor? Employers advertising for ranch postions paying $14+ per hour min and seeing a hand full of people apply when the rancher needs 200 people. Ignorant

In reply to by kerr lee (not verified)

Submitted by Tony Emmi on Tue, 01/08/2019 - 21:41

Few US workers will take the farm positions that are needed. I have tried for 27 years now. It would be much cheaper for me to field a domestic work force rather than an H2A work force. Using the H2A program was the worst business decision I ever made but it was my last shot at having a steady reliable crew on the farm. Unfortunately, because of destructive policy and regulation such as the adverse effect wage rate, the third generation of our 300 acre fruit and vegetable farm will be the last generation to farm.

Submitted by Paul Miller on Wed, 01/09/2019 - 09:06

How does the average producer of any commodity recoup increasing costs? You raise prices, right? The real problem with these increased production costs is that retailers continue to fight eachother to be the cheapest on the block. Because of that consumers demand cheaper prices continuously. SO we are out here fighting with rising labor, water and distribution costs but they are fighting on the opposite end of the distribution chain for lower prices to sell the products whose production costs continually go up. People deserve to make a decent wage for their labor but we deserve a fair price for our products too. If we could raise our prices, we could absorb these cost increases.

Submitted by MAR on Wed, 01/09/2019 - 10:55

You hit the nail on the head. The real problem is at the top (supermarkets, retailers), not at the bottom.

In reply to by Paul Miller (not verified)

Submitted by Kwade105 on Fri, 01/03/2020 - 23:00

Well said! Thank you!

In reply to by Paul Miller (not verified)

Submitted by Amigo on Sat, 01/12/2019 - 11:33

Mexico's minimum wage of $5.00 per day has prompted big farm corporations to abandon the US for Mexico. The US farmer cannot compete with the farms in Mexico, so we loose the ability to grower our own food source in this country. No big deal right? Take a look at the recent trends in trade with Mexico of fruits and vegetables versus what they were 10 years ago. It's a huge deal. It's a national security issue!

Submitted by Wholesaler on Mon, 01/28/2019 - 11:32

Funny how most rates went up, yet Florida’s fell...Politics as usual...