The USDA says farmers who hire H-2A laborers next year will be paying higher wages, and in some cases, the increase is large. Veronica Nigh, senior economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, talks about the increasing costs of farm labor.
Nigh says, “The USDA’s Farm Labor Survey told us that wage rates across the United States, in all states, in all regions, increased in 2023. The Farm Labor Survey tells us that in 2024, farmers in 13 states will pay more than $1 more per hour to their H-2A employees than they did this year. Farmers in 31 states will pay between 50 cents and $1 more. Only in six states is the increase for next year less than 50 cents.”
She says this is a very important survey for production agriculture. Nigh says, “USDA’s Farm Labor Survey is utilized by the Department of Labor to establish the Adverse Effect Wage Rates that growers must pay H-2A workers through the temporary visa program. So, these wage rates are really make or break for farmers as to whether or not the wage rates they pay out through the H-2A program are going to be viable for their business.”
Some regions of the country will see a larger increase in H-2A wage rates than others.
Nigh says, “Wage rates went up in every region, the smallest increase was for the Corn Belt, region two, where we saw wage rates rise a quarter, which was 1.4 percent increase. The largest percentage increase was in Hawaii. Hawaiians are going to pay $1.49 per hour more next year for the H-2A program than they did this year.”