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Legislation proposed to freeze AEWR

Side view of the front of the US capitol building.

The federal H-2A program for agricultural guestworkers has long been an object of complaint for fruit and vegetable growers.

One problem is the adverse effect wage rate (AEWR), the minimum wage that employers must pay foreign workers to prevent them from competing with domestic labor shortages. The AEWR, set by the Department of Labor, varies from state to state. In every instance it is higher than the state minimum wage—sometimes, as in the case of Georgia, almost twice as much.

John Hollay, director of U.S. government relations for the International Fresh Produce Association BB #:378962, has sent out a communication urging members to contact their Congressional representatives to support the Supporting Farms Operations Act (HR 7048), introduced by Rep. John Moolenar (R-MI), which would freeze the AEWR.

“The H-2A visa program has become unworkable and unaffordable, as wage increases threaten to price producers out of business,” says the IFPA communication. “Congress can and should act to reform the program as the industry has demanded for decades, but Congress cannot wait for the perfect reform bill we need any longer. Congress must act NOW to provide relief while the continue to seek broader reform.”

The measure would freeze the AEWR for two years.

“Increased AEWR rates have contributed to the decline of fruit and vegetable production in the United States as growers go out of business due to the unsustainable and unpredictable wage increases,” says the suggested letter to representatives.  

American growers aren’t the only ones facing acute economic pressures. France is currently seeing a nationwide road blockade organized by farmers.

Two of France’s largest farm unions have called for a full blockade of Paris today.

“Farmers say they are being squeezed from multiple directions, with buyers from supermarkets and the food industry crushing their margins and complex environmental rules on issues like leaving land fallow and pesticide use,” reports Le Monde.

The last straw was the government’s elimination of a tax break on diesel fuel for farm equipment, Le Monde adds.  

Farmers in other nations, including Romania, Poland, and Germany, are stepping up protests on similar grounds.


Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 12 books.