Georgia attorney general joins ag groups seeking AEWR transparency
Posted on Jan 10, 2024 at 23:40 PM
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has joined the call for DOL to provide meaningful explanations of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) and to pause the scheduled increases to allow for a long-term solution to be developed.
Carr wrote to acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Dec. 29, noting concerns about cost increases for producers and rising food prices for consumers.
In his letter, Carr wrote, “The lack of transparency concerning the methodology can only lead our constituents to reasonably assume these mandated wage increases were established arbitrarily and without regard for the wellbeing of Georgia farmers. Therefore, we ask for more information on what methodology and raw data was used to justify the substantial wage increase and the discrepancy between the proposed AEWR and private sector rates. We also request that the increases are halted while we await the responses from your agencies and our office has the opportunity to evaluate them.”
New AEWRs for users of the H-2A program went into effect Jan.1. Following a 21% increase in the wage in the last 14 months, Georgia’s AEWR is now set at $14.68 for H-2A workers for 2024.
Georgia House and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairmen Robert Dickey and Russ Goodman have organized letters to Georgia’s congressional delegation, and other agricultural organizations, including Georgia Farm Bureau, are working to make Georgia growers’ concerns over AEWR known to the state’s members of Congress.
On Jan. 2, the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA) wrote to acting Secretary Su, emphasizing that Georgia growers now find themselves at the intersection of trade policy that will increase our nations reliance on others to provide our food and an H-2A program that is cost prohibitive for growers to use.
GFVGA has worked with members of the Georgia congressional delegation to meet with USDA and DOL in an attempt to shed light on the process that determines the AEWR.
Coupled with the complexity and administrative cost to use the program, the escalating wage increases are making the program unaffordable for growers who depend on H-2A workers to produce the fresh fruits and vegetables that feed our nation.
Recently, members of the Georgia House and Georgia Senate appealed to the Georgia Congressional Delegation to address critical issues impacting Georgia growers.
GFVGA has also joined with organizations including the National Council of Agricultural Employers to submit an official petition to the Department of Labor(Link to GFVGA AEWR Petition) requesting the department amend or repeal the AEWR methodology so that it conforms with the law that sets forth the rules for the program.
The GFVGA petition draws a clear line between rising AEWR rates and how they will ultimately lead to more imports of fruits and vegetables as Georgia growers have no choice but to cut production acres.
Based on the number of H-2A workers in Georgia, the GFVGA estimated that the AEWR increase will cost Georgia growers more than an $150 million in additional wages. The GFVGA noted that hiring domestic workers would be ideal, but that it is clear U.S. workers are not interested in production agriculture.
“The current AEWR scheme, to protect U.S. domestic workers who do not exist, is driving the AEWR to a level that leaves U.S. growers uncompetitive and will ultimately result in fewer acres being produced in the US, more imports and a growing reliance on other counties to feed ourselves,” the GFVGA wrote.