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Senators Call on Leadership to Freeze AEWR, Protecting Agriculture Independence

BISMARCK – Effective January 1, 2024, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a new annual adjustment to the Farm Labor Survey (FLS) Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWR) for the employment of temporary or seasonal nonimmigrant foreign workers (H–2A workers). According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the national average AEWR will be $17.55 this year, an 5.6% increase from last year. This marks the third year in a row the AEWR has increased more than 5%.

For 2024, North Dakota’s AEWR is set at $18.32, an increase from the Fiscal Year 2023 rate of $17.33. This year’s rate increase, when combined with anticipated increases to the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) AEWR, will place further strain and pressure on farmers and ranchers already struggling with elevated input costs.

U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) joined U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and their colleagues in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), requesting the earliest possible legislative vehicle freezes the H-2A wage rates at January 2023 levels.

“If costs continue to increase as they have, the pressure put on America’s food producers will fundamentally shift the food production model that has allowed us to be agriculturally independent and secure,” the senators wrote. “The United States already imports much of our fruit and produce, as operating costs and competition from abroad have driven out many domestic producers. If we continue with these unsustainable policies, we are not only damaging our country’s longstanding agricultural heritage, but also threatening our domestic food supply.”

“We have heard from constituents who will be forced to make tough decisions about which crops they will be able to afford to hire enough labor to harvest this year,” the senators concluded. “Others, including small and family run operations, will be unable to afford the added labor costs and forced to shutter operations altogether. In order to support our farmers and ranchers and feed families across the country, we must act now.”

Additional cosigners include U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-ID), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mike Braun (R-IN), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Rick Scott (R-FL), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Todd Young (R-IN), Ted Budd (R-NC), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and John Hoeven (R-ND).

Click here for the letter.

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