With the release of USDA’s Farm Labor Survey on February 11, farmers that utilize the H-2A program finally know the minimum wage they must pay their H-2A workers in 2021.
Usually, this wage rate, known as the Adverse Effect Wage Rate, is known when the Farm Labor Survey is released in November, but changes in policy that were proposed and then struck down in the courts over the last four months delayed the Farm Labor Survey’s release, which in turn held up the AEWR announcement. The FLS reveals an average increase of $0.63 per hour, or 4.5%, from 2020 to 2021, though there are considerable regional differences.
In fall 2020, the process of amending the wage methodology for the H-2A program began. First, in September, USDA issued a notice that it would no longer conduct the Farm Labor Survey, which is typically carried out in April and October and released in May and November, respectively.
This change was important because the Department of Labor uses the data from the two surveys to calculate the annual national average gross wage rate for field and livestock workers, which becomes the AEWR. The annual national average gross wage rate for field and livestock workers is included in the November FLS report.