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Huizenga Leads 120 Members of Congress in Effort to Save Family Farms, Enact H-2A Wage Freeze

Today, Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI) was joined by 119 of his colleagues on a letter to House Appropriations leaders requesting an H-2A visa guestworker wage freeze in the upcoming appropriations process. This simple policy fix would help lower input costs for the agricultural community and save family farms across the nation. This level of support for freezing the H-2A wage rate is significant because it represents the majority of the House Republican Conference (110) and even includes 10 House Democrats.

The “Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR),” or the required wage that farm employers must pay H-2A workers more than doubled since 2005, making agricultural labor and its products more unaffordable. With the nation’s average AEWR reaching $17.55/hr in 2024 (more than a 5% increase year over year) and other inflated input costs including fuel and fertilizer, many farms are in danger of going out of business. In Michigan, the AEWR will be a steep $18.50/hr, while our Canadian neighbors pay their agricultural workers closer to $11/hr. A temporary wage freeze is a reasonable way to alleviate this skyrocketing financial burden and give our farmers a chance to compete, stay in business, and put food on the table for millions of Americans and the world. 

The text of the letter to the House Appropriations is available below and a signed copy is available here.

Dear Chairman Aderholt and Ranking Member DeLauro:

We write with shared concerns regarding the annual adjustment to the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR). Now in 2024, the H-2A labor rates paid by agricultural employers have become more unaffordable, and it will certainly increase in 2025 as well. The new rates put further financial strain on farm operations of all sizes, and we urge you to include an H-2A wage freeze in Fiscal Year 2025 appropriations legislation.

The national average AEWR has already more than doubled over the past two decades, making agricultural guest labor unaffordable for farm employers and resulting in higher consumer costs. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the national average AEWR is around $17.55, which is upwards of a mean 5 percent increase over 2023. While the AEWR varies by region, nearly half of all states have an AEWR between $17 and $19 per hour in 2024. Meanwhile, producers in Canada pay closer to $11 per hour for fieldworkers, or even approximately $1.50 per hour in Mexico. This uneven playing field greatly disadvantages our domestic producers.

For farmers and ranchers who use H-2A, the skyrocketing AEWR will only compound inflated input costs like energy and fertilizer, other guest worker expenses like transportation and housing, and burdens from several impending federal regulations and fees. USDA data shows that hired farm labor costs account for nearly 15 percent of total cash expenses. More labor-intensive industries will be hardest-hit, including specialty crop growers, who already spend nearly 40 percent of their total cash expenses on labor alone. If we do nothing, many of our constituents will be forced to shutter their businesses, despite good-faith efforts to ensure our national food security and feed families across our nation.

While more permanent solutions are needed to address the AEWR’s past impact and its future trajectory, we request that the Fiscal Year 2025 appropriations bill prohibit funds from being used to implement a wage larger than the January 2023 wage rate or otherwise freeze the H-2A wage rates at January 2023 levels. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

“Too many family farms in Michigan and across the nation are on the brink due to soaring input costs,” said Congressman Bill Huizenga. “Farmers, growers, and producers often work from sunup to sundown. Washington should be working with our farmers to lower costs, not raise them. I am proud to lead this effort that includes the majority of House Republicans to lower costs and help both family farms as well as the larger agricultural community.”

“I have met with fifth and sixth-generation Michigan farmers who are worried they will be the last in their families to farm unless the Labor Department stops making it harder for them to do business. The Labor Department has mandated higher wage rates out of line with reality on the ground in Michigan for ten consecutive years. An AEWR freeze, like the one in my Supporting Farm Operations Act, is a common-sense solution widely supported by the agriculture community. Thank you to Congressman Huizenga for leading this letter with dozens of members supporting our efforts. As our state’s only member of the House Appropriations Committee, I will fight for much-needed relief for farmers,” said Congressman John Moolenaar.

Agricultural leaders across America are voicing support for the inclusion of a proposed H-2A wage freeze and detailing the negative impact an increase would have on farmers, growers, and producers.

“Farmers are committed to paying their employees a fair wage, but the Department of Labor’s AEWR rule uses flawed data to reach a flawed conclusion. Requiring farmers to pay their workers far more than the average domestic worker is earning just makes no sense, especially in the face of high supply costs, inflation, and a geopolitical uncertainty. We are grateful for the bipartisan Members of Congress who took the time to understand the impacts of this rule and are willing to stand up for common sense solutions in Washington,” said Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation

“The Michigan Blueberry Advisory Committee fully supports Rep. Bill Huizenga's letter for freezing the H2A wages,” said Chad Reenders, President of Michigan Blueberry Advisory Committee. Our blueberry industry has been significantly damaged from these high labor rates. As a result, many farms in the past few years have already been sold or abandoned due to these high wages. Our committee understands how important it is to keep these farms operational. The MBBAC wants to continue to work with all the organizations to make this program affordable and sustainable. Thanks to all Representatives that support this letter and are willing to work together to make the American Farms live on for generations to come.”

“The Michigan Apple industry is appreciative of the bipartisan effort to freeze H-2A wages for farmworkers, as it shows an understanding of the unsustainable increases in labor costs and overall production costs in agriculture,” said Diane Smith of the Michigan Apple Association. “The Adverse Effect Wage Rate has increased by 61% in the last decade in Michigan.  Most apple growers are losing money at this point – more than $1,800 per acre, as production costs continue to rise. We especially appreciate the support of the Michigan congress members, Representative Huizenga and Representative Kildee, who co-authored the effort, as well as other Michigan congress members from both sides of the aisle who have supported agriculture.”

“Michigan asparagus growers are being crushed by the ever-increasing government mandated AEWR.  Asparagus is the canary in the coal mine with other vegetables and fruits not far behind,” said Jamie Clover Adams CEO of the Michigan Asparagus Association. “Without a pause in the AEWR, Michigan growers and our rural communities with will be irreparably harmed. Thank you to Rep. Huizenga for his leadership and the other members of the Michigan delegation for their support. Growers look forward to this being included in the FY25 budget.”

“An H-2A wage freeze provides cost predictability for our farmers, allowing them to budget and manage labor resources while ensuring they can continue to employ the necessary labor force for crop planting and harvest while a more permanent solution is investigated,” said Kelly Turner, Ed.D, CAE. Manager, Potato Growers of Michigan

“We’re at a crossroads and if Congress doesn’t act quickly, the very fabric of our local communities will change, making families increasingly dependent on foreign-sourced produce,” said John Kran, National Legislative Counsel, Michigan Farm Bureau. “Michigan Farm Bureau is incredibly appreciative of Michigan Representatives Bill Huizenga and Dan Kildee for leading this effort and for their many colleagues who truly understand how critical this issue is for the survival of family farms that raise specialty crops in our state and across the country.”

“America’s fresh produce industry is facing a crisis that threatens to upend our food supply chain and it is driven by out-of-control labor costs,” said Cathy Burns, CEO of the International Fresh Produce Association. “If Congress does not act, we will lose the ability to be a food secure country. Congressman Huizenga’s bipartisan effort to provide immediate AEWR relief sends a message that Congress can and must act now to save American agriculture.”

“AmericanHort commends Reps. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Don Davis (D-NC), Rick Crawford (R-AR), and Dan Kildee (D-MI) for leading this bipartisan letter with over 120 Members of Congress requesting to freeze the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), said Ken Fisher, President and CEO, AmericanHort. “As labor and affiliated costs continue to put pressure on our growers and the horticulture industry, placing a freeze on the AEWR will ease the high cost of labor and aid growers in planning for the future.”

“Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) thanks Congressmen Bill Huizenga and Don Davis for working in a bipartisan fashion to raise concerns on the skyrocketing Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) and its impacts on hardworking farm and ranch families,” said TFB President Russell Boening. “While TFB readily recognizes the need for comprehensive long-term H-2A labor reform, a freeze on the AEWR will provide critical short-term relief. If action is not taken, many farmers and ranchers will be forced out of business, putting our national food security at severe risk. We thank all the members of Congress who signed the letter and recognize the direness of the situation. TFB looks forward to our continued work with Congress on agricultural labor reform.”

Joining Congressman Huizenga on the letter are Representatives: Alford, Mark; Allen, Rick; Armstrong, Kelly; Arrington, Jodey; Babin, Brian; Bacon, Don; Baird, James; Balderson, Troy; Banks, Jim; Barr, Andy; Bentz, Cliff; Bergman, Jack; Bilirakis, Gus; Bishop, Dan; Boebert, Lauren; Bost, Mike; Bucshon, Larry; Cammack, Kat; Caraveo, Yadira; Carter, Earl; Chavez-DeRemer, Lori; Cline, Ben; Cloud, Michael; Clyde, Andrew; Comer, James; Costa, Jim; Crawford, Eric; Davis, Donald; De La Cruz, Monica; DesJarlais, Scott; Donalds, Byron; Duarte, John; Duncan, Jeff; Dunn, Neal; Ezell, Mike; Fallon, Pat; Feenstra, Randy; Finstad, Brad; Fischbach, Michelle; Fry, Russell; Fulcher, Russ; Gonzales, Tony; González-Colón, Jenniffer; Gooden, Lance; Graves, Garret; Grothman, Glenn; Guthrie, Brett; Harshbarger, Diana; Hern, Kevin; Higgins, Clay; Hill, J.; Houchin, Erin; Hudson, Richard; Hunt, Wesley; Jackson, Ronny; James, John; Johnson, Dusty; Joyce, John; Kelly, Mike; Kelly, Trent; Kiggans, Jennifer; Kildee, Daniel; Kustoff, David; LaHood, Darin; LaMalfa, Doug; Langworthy, Nicholas; Lawler, Michael; Lee, Laurel; Loudermilk, Barry; Lucas, Frank; Luttrell, Morgan; Mace, Nancy; Manning, Kathy; McCaul, Michael; McClain, Lisa; Meuser, Daniel; Miller, Mary; Miller-Meeks, Mariannette; Mills, Cory; Molinaro, Marcus; Moore, Barry; Moran, Nathaniel; Murphy, Gregory; Nehls, Troy; Norman, Ralph; Nunn, Zachary; Palmer, Gary; Pence, Greg; Perez, Marie; Pfluger, August; Rodgers, Cathy; Rogers, Mike; Rose, John; Rouzer, David; Ryan, Patrick; Salazar, Maria; Scholten, Hillary; Schrier, Kim; Scott, Austin; Self, Keith; Sessions, Pete; Slotkin, Elissa; Stauber, Pete; Stefanik, Elise; Steube, W.; Strong, Dale; Tenney, Claudia; Thompson, Glenn; Timmons, William; Van Drew, Jefferson; Van Orden, Derrick; Walberg, Tim; Waltz, Michael; Weber, Randy; Webster, Daniel; Westerman, Bruce; Williams, Roger; Wilson, Joe; Yakym, Rudy


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