At the end of March, the Department of Labor’s new formula for H-2A wages, the Adverse Effect Wage Rate or AEWR, took effect. Now farm families across the country, small farms especially, are taking a hard look at their balance sheets, and many may find it hard to stay afloat. Although the administration says it supports farmers, its agency’s actions are having the opposite effect. The AEWR is long overdue for a fix, but this wasn’t it.
DOL largely ignored input from across the agricultural community. Instead of addressing inconsistencies and fixing its flawed wage formula, they actually managed to make it even worse. Rather than bringing the consistency and fairness that we called for, the 2023 AEWR impacts small farmers disproportionately and is wildly unpredictable. What’s more—it doesn’t factor in the already competitive wages farmers pay to ensure we have enough hands to plant, tend and harvest crops, or care for animals.