Apr 25 2023
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Ted Budd (R-NC) led 24 of their colleagues in introducing a resolution of disapproval to block a Department of Labor (DOL) rule that will drastically increase costs for American farmers.
Under the new rule, DOL requires a higher minimum payment for H-2A visa agricultural workers. This change inflates H-2A wage rates while also creating a massive administrative burden for all H-2A farmers who now have to separately track every activity of every employee on their farms to avoid violating the new rule.
“Arkansans and all Americans are experiencing record high prices at the grocery store. This rule will continue to drive costs up and make it more difficult for hardworking families to put affordable and safe food on the table. As the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I’ve heard concerns from farmers and ranchers from all across the country about the increased labor costs this imposes on them as they continue to be the target of Biden administration policies that threaten their operations,” Boozman said. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in support of reversing this disastrous regulation.”
Senators Boozman, Scott and Budd were joined by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Katie Britt (R-AL), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Kennedy (R-LA), James Lankford (R-OK), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-KS), Jim Risch (R-ID), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Rick Scott (R-FL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) to introduce the resolution of disapproval.
The resolution is supported by the entire steering committee of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC), which led a letter of support with over 550 Agriculture organizations from across the country—including the Arkansas Farm Bureau.
“The AWC strongly opposes the harmful H-2A regulation. The new calculation dramatically increases costs for producers utilizing the program and will place an undue burden on family farms which are already facing a multitude of challenges, including the impact of high input costs, foreign competition, market volatility, and adverse weather. It will make it difficult for farmers to remain competitive and will serve only to further increase costs for domestically produced agricultural products,” said the member organizations of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition.
Congressman Ralph Norman (R-SC) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman GT Thompson (R-PA) introduced the companion resolution of disapproval in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Since it took effect in 1987, the DOL’s H-2A visa program has played an essential role in filling gaps in the U.S. farm labor market through the utilization of seasonal labor. H-2A labor is essential for a number of American farms to remain sufficiently staffed for the planting, cultivating, and harvesting of crops.
Almost half of H-2A labor is employed by individuals, so affordable wages and a maximization of the H-2A hiring process are both critical—especially for smaller farms.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, labor already accounts for nearly 40 percent of total production costs on some farms. This new rule from the DOL will only raise that cost nationwide and create a new layer of complexity for employers who rely on the H-2A program.