Updates made to federal H-2A guest worker program | TheFencePost.com

Updates made to federal H-2A guest worker program

by Eric Brown
Greeley, Colo.

The federal government’s H-2A guest worker program has been updated.

Those updates include an annual change to allowable charges for meals and subsistence reimbursements, along with a nonmaterial change to wage rate determinations.

The alterations were announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. Notices regarding those changes will be published today in the Federal Register and can be viewed online at s.dol.gov/O9, and s.dol.gov/OA.

The H-2A temporary worker program allows agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of U.S. workers to bring non-immigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature.

The program has long been a focal point of controversy, with U.S. farmers and ranchers saying the program is too expensive to use and has too many regulations, making it difficult to bring in legal foreign workers at a time when U.S. residents don’t want to do the labor.

The allowable meal charge is the maximum amount that employers seeking H-2A workers may charge their workers for daily meals provided by the employer. The rates are based upon annual data for the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers for food.

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The annual average percentage change for the CPI-U for food from 2010 to 2011 was 3.7 percent and, accordingly, the 2012 maximum amount an employer may charge a worker for meals provided has been raised to $11.13 per day.

In addition, the H-2A program regulations require employer reimbursement of subsistence expenses, which include both meals and lodging that may be required during travel to and from a work site.

Updates have been made in the program’s handbooks and other materials regarding the changes, according to a statement released by the USDA.