The end of the calendar year brings new information about the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program. American Farm Bureau Federation Senior Economist Veronica Nigh said participation in the program for 2021 was a record.

"Despite the ongoing global pandemic, fiscal year 2021—which started on October 1, 2020, and it went through September 30, 2021—was a record-breaking year for the H-2A program," Nigh said. "The total number of certified positions increased over 15 percent."

Additionally, USDA recently released the Farm Labor Survey, which is the basis for the 2022 Adverse Effect Wage Rate, the minimum hourly wage rates that must be offered and paid by employers to H-2A workers.

"And the Farm Labor Survey found that in 2021 the average field and livestock worker wage rate was $15.56, which was up 94 cents from 2020 or about 6.4 percent from the $14.62 that was paid in 2020," Nigh said.

Finally, earlier this week, Nigh said the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule to change some of the wage calculations under the H-2A program.

"Today all workers, irrespective of position, are all paid the same adverse effect wage rates. The proposed rule suggests some disaggregation depending on job type," Nigh said. "The American Farm Bureau, of course, is taking a close look at this rule and will provide comments, and advisement to our members in the weeks and months to come."

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