The new Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWR) were published in the Federal Register last week. The AEWR is the minimum hourly wage an H-2A worker can be paid. This AEWR came from the USDA National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) Farm Labor Survey (FLS). The annual FLS survey is generally used to establish the AEWR for H-2A workers each year. The law that established the H-2A program states that the importation of foreign workers shall not have an ‘adverse effect’ on local wages. Domestic wages cannot be reduced by using cheaper foreign workers. This is why the AEWR was established.
The 2024 AEWR will increase by about 5% for TX, NM, and KS.
TX current rate $14.87 new rate $15.55
NM current rate $15.62 new rate $16.32
KS current rate $17.33 new rate $18.32
These new wage rates will take effect on January 1, 2024. If you have any H-2A workers on staff on this date, you must increase their wages to this new rate regardless of contract terms. The AEWR applies to the “Big 6” Standard Occupational Classifications (SOC) which includes 45-2091 (Agricultural Equipment Operators). This is the classification for most of the H-2A workers in the gins.
Compounding the issues with H-2A wages, the Department of Labor (DOL) recently instituted a new rule changing the way H-2A wages are computed. Depending on how the Job Order is described, some orders may still require use of the AEWR, and some may require use of the Occupational Employment Wage Survey (OEWS) wages. Some of the main jobs at the gins that may be affected by this new rule are heavy truck drivers, mechanics and supervisors. The wages on the OEWS survey are noticeably higher than the AEWR wages. A lawsuit was filed against the DOL on this new H-2A Wage rule earlier this year and it is currently being litigated.
As always, we will keep you updated as more information is released. Please contact us if you have questions about this, or any other issues affecting your operation.