IFPA: Farm Labor wage survey shows need for Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The Farm Labor Survey released last week by the Agriculture Department proved how important it is for Congress to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act during the lame duck session of Congress, according to a key International Fresh Produce Association official.
The House has passed a bill that most employer groups and farmworker advocates support, but the Senate has not passed it.
The survey, released Wednesday, will be used by the Labor Department to determine the 2023 Adverse Effect Wage Rates which are wages that must be paid to H-2A temporary immigrant workers in the United States.
IFPA said it anticipates that the national AEWR will be $16.62, an increase of 6.8% over the current year. Across the country, individual state AEWRs now range from between $13.67 to a high of $18.65 in California. The highest single increase on a percentage basis was in Florida, where the AEWR increased by almost 15.5%.
Robert Guenther, IFPA’s chief public policy officer, said the release of the survey “should be a clarion call from the fresh produce industry on why Congress must act this year on agriculture immigration reform legislation.”
“For the last two years, ramping up to the 2022 congressional mid-terms, we have heard so much rhetoric from our elected officials about the rising cost of food and inflation taking off. Next week, Congress has the ability to stop this unaffordable, and unacceptable increase in wages that will cripple producers who are already suffering from high inflation,” Guenther said.
One provision of the House-passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act would put an annual cap on increases to the AEWR “which will not only help the farmers who grow our food, but the consumers who buy it,” Guenther said. “Whether they will listen to the 100 million people who voted in the 2022 election or not is up to them.”
The cap on the Adverse Effect Wage Rate is one of only many provisions in the bill — it would also allow workers to sue employers over workplace abuses and provide a path to citizenship for farm workers.
The American Farm Bureau Federation is not supporting the bill, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is expected to become the House speaker in the next Congress, has said he won’t support any immigration-related bill without addressing border security.
Employer groups say they fear that a Republican-controlled House will not advance any immigration measure that has a chance of passage in the Senate, which will remain controlled by Democrats.The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, are trying to reach an agreement that could attract the 60 votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate, but that they have not announced any compromise measure.
If Bennet and Crapo do come up with a bill that is different from the House-passed measure it would have to go back to the House for consideration.
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