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Michigan Farm Bureau Family of Companies

Issue in focus: Agricultural Workforce

Image credit: Getty images
Date Posted: April 10, 2024

Michigan’s farm families rely on foreign employees through the federal H-2A program to sustain our food, fiber, and fuel production. 

In 2023, the H-2A program provided more than 15,000 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 AEWR rate for Michigan increased 6.7% this year, from the $17.34 hourly figure to $18.50. For ten consecutive years, the Department of Labor has increased the AEWR and has not taken industry concerns into consideration. 

Farm Bureau continues to advocate for reforms, because if changes are not made to ensure the agriculture sector has an adequate and reliable workforce, we can expect:

  1. Less food and farm products being grown, raised, and processed locally. 
  2. More imported products on store shelves because they are less expensive and more efficient. 
  3. 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.

Legislative efforts

Farm Bureau supports H.R. 7046 and S. 3848, the Supporting Farm Operations Act, would freeze the AEWR at the December 2023 level through the end of 2025 and create a primary duties test. The test would help address concerns with wage rate disaggregation for most workers. Michigan Reps. Bergman, Huizenga, McClain and Walberg have cosponsored the House bill sponsored by Rep. John Moolenaar.

Separately, the House Ag Committee leadership appointed an equally bipartisan working group last year to study the issues with the H-2A program and deliver a list of policy recommendations. The working group conducted numerous roundtable discussions, stakeholder meetings, and correspondences over the course of 8 months. MFB staff and members interacted with this group and provided written feedback on how to address our workforce crisis. The full report is available here

Regulatory action

Farm Bureau actively worked to get 75 members of the House to send a letter to appropriators urging a multiple year H-2A wage rate freeze and repeal of the damaging 2023 U.S. Department of Labor rule that disaggregated wages for various H-2A job functions. Joining Rep. Bill Huizenga on the letter were: Reps. Bergman, James, Kildee, McClain, Moolenaar, Slotkin, and Walberg. 


American Farm Bureau Federation Workforce News and Information

Related Michigan Farm News coverage

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John Kran

National Legislative Counsel
517-679-5336 [email protected]