Senators introduce CRA to overturn H-2A visa rule
U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis (both R-WY) joined Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Ted Budd (R-NC), among many others across the country, in introducing a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to overturn a Department of Labor (DOL) rule regarding the H-2A Visa Program and the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR).
In an April 28 press release, Barrasso and Lummis note they believe the DOL’s rule unnecessarily overhauls the H-2A program and AEWR, which will dramatically increase costs and create unnecessary paperwork for farmers and ranchers across Wyoming.
“At a time when Americans are struggling to put food on the table, President Biden is adding another burdensome regulation to make matters worse,” says Barrasso.
“This out-of-touch rule creates higher costs for farmers and ranchers, resulting in even higher food prices for Wyoming families,” he adds. “The Biden administration needs to ditch this disastrous rule and stand up for our hardworking farmers and ranchers across the country.”
Lummis comments, “From inflation to supply shortages, Wyoming farmers and ranchers have been through the ringer during the Biden administration. A price hike on farmers and ranchers means higher prices for Wyoming families as they struggle to put food on the table during record inflation. This DOL rule is not only unnecessary, it would have incredibly damaging consequences.”
H-2A Visa Program
The H-2A Visa Program provides temporary agricultural employment to help farmers and ranchers in the U.S. fill unemployment gaps by hiring workers outside of the country.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), “The H-2A temporary agricultural program helps employers who anticipate a lack of available domestic workers to bring foreign workers to the U.S. to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural work, which can happen on farms plantations, ranches, nurseries, greenhouses, orchards or other similar locations.”
In their press release, Barrasso and Lummis note nearly one-half of H-2A labor is employed by small businesses, meaning affordable wages and a maximization of the H-2A hiring process are critical.
They also mention, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, labor already accounts for almost 40 percent of the total production cost on many farms, and the DOL’s new rule will continue to raise this cost while also creating a new layer of complexity for employers who rely on the program.
Summary of DOL’s rule
The H-2A Visa Program includes an AEWR, which is the minimum amount of payment employers can offer to workers in the program.
Under DOL’s new rule, certain types of jobs on agricultural operations will require separate, higher AEWRs.
According to Barrasso and Lummis, this change will not only increase H-2A wage rates beyond what many employers can afford, it will also create an administrative burden on employers because they will also be required to separately track everyday activities for each individual employee.
“DOL ignored agricultural industry realities when it crafted this new AEWR methodology, and it blatantly dismissed dozens of concerns submitted by producers during the rulemaking process,” the two senators say.
In addition to Barrasso, Lummis, Scott and Budd, 21 other senators across the nation have sponsored the CRA, as of April 25.
These include Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jim Risch (R-ID), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), James Lankford (R-OK), Mike Braun (R-IN), Rick Scott (R-FL), Deb Fischer (R-NE), John Kennedy (R-LA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Katie Britt (R-AL) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), as well as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.