Michigan’s farm families rely on a timely workforce to produce the diversity of crops and livestock grown in the state. Temporary foreign workers through the federal H-2A program to sustain our food, fiber, and fuel production. Farm Bureau is actively seeking various workforce reforms at the state and national level. If changes are not made to ensure the agriculture sector has an adequate and reliable workforce, we can expect the following to happen:
Less food and farm products being grown, raised, and processed locally.
More imported products on store shelves because they are less expensive and more efficient.
Some farmers and processors going out of business or employing less people because they can’t afford the wage increases and keep up with skyrocketing input costs.
Like many states, Michigan is experiencing explosive growth in the H-2A program that in 2022 provided more than 15,500 jobs on our state’s fruit, vegetable, dairy, field crop, sod, and Christmas tree farms, along with wineries, nurseries, and greenhouses.
These farms — and employees — are at risk of being forced out of the industry altogether due to unsustainable increases in the H-2A program’s Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), among other challenges.
The American Farm Bureau Federation and Michigan Farm Bureau advocate for meaningful legislation that helps farmers meet their labor needs. Additionally, we oppose overly burdensome labor regulations to improve farmers’ ability to hire and maintain the workers they need.
Legislation currently under consideration:
S. 874 the Farm Operations Support Act: MFB supports the bill that would require the AEWR that was in effect on December 1, 2022 remain unchanged through December 21, 2023.
H.R. 2640, the Border Security and Enforcement Act: The bill includes several border security measures. MFB opposes the bill because it includes mandatory E-Verify without offering a solution to address agriculture’s workforce needs.
H.J. Res. 59 and S.J. Res. 25 Congressional Disapproval of Dept. of Labor’s AEWR Rule: The resolution would reverse a disastrous rule that changes the methods used to certify H-2A positions. The rule introduces a new set of wages and rates that are not representative of agriculture work.
The Adverse Effect Wage Rate for Michigan increased 12.8% this year, from the $15.37 hourly figure to $17.34. For nine consecutive years, the Department of Labor has increased the AEWR and has not taken industry concerns into consideration.
A letter from numerous members of Congress was recently sent to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services outlining concerns with the proposed fee increases for H-2A and H-2B applications. MFB filed comments on the proposed fee increase in March.
While guest worker reforms are largely handled at the federal level, there are state-level programs our organization can influence to immediately address the farm employee shortage.
Michigan Farm Bureau is currently advocating for the reinstatement of a grant program that helps farms maintain high quality housing and build additional housing for employees. Our state maintains the highest quality housing in the nation, but additional investment is needed to keep that status and build additional housing.
Not only are workers needed in our state, but those workers increasingly require specific skills. Many laws even dictate specific licenses or required education to perform certain tasks. Michigan Farm Bureau is promoting grants for training and certification, to help ensure our state’s agricultural workforce has the skills needed.