Ag News

Georgia AEWR projected to increase by $1 per hour in 2024

by Compiled by Jay Stone

Posted on Dec 14, 2023 at 18:37 PM

On Nov. 22, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released its semi-annual Farm Labor Report (FLR), which is used as the basis for setting the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) agricultural producers must pay migrant farm workers hired under the H-2A program. In 2022, the AEWR in Georgia was $13.67; the FLR notes the Georgia AEWR at $14.68 in 2023.

The report includes quarterly estimates of the number of hired workers, average hours worked per worker and average hourly wage rates. The report also provides an annual weighted average hourly wage rate for field workers, field and livestock workers combined, and all hired workers, based on the quarterly estimates.

“Escalating wages are a major concern for our farmers, who in recent years have dealt with rampant increases in other costs like fertilizer and fuel,” Georgia Farm Bureau President Tom McCall said. “Our producers already operate on thin financial margins, and another imposed wage increase will put some on really shaky financial ground.”

According to a Dec. 4 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the AEWR increase in 2023 cost Georgia farmers more than $100 million.

The field and livestock workers’ combined wage rate for 2023 contained in the FLR becomes the AEWR utilized in the H-2A program in 2024. The rates don’t become official until they are released by the Department of Labor in the Federal Register, usually around mid-December, but the rates published in the Federal Register are typically unchanged from what is published in the FLR.

The fiscal year 2023 U.S. average field and livestock workers’ combined wage rate rose, but the 5.6% fiscal year-over-fiscal year increase outpaced the 4.3% end-of-fiscal year-over-end-of-fiscal year growth in seasonally adjusted average hourly earnings of all private employees. According to American Farm Bureau’s Dec. 4 Market Intel, this increase will continue to put significant pressure on the bottom lines of farmers with significant labor needs.

The field and livestock workers’ combined wage rate is the basis for the AEWR, but the AEWR is not a national rate. Rather, it is set by farm labor region as defined in the FLR. There are 15 farm labor regions, plus individual rates for California, Florida and Hawaii.

While the 2023 U.S. average field and livestock workers’ combined wage rate was $17.55 per hour, up 93 cents per hour, or 5.6%, from 2022, there are considerable differences between regions. In the Southeast Region, which includes Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, the wage rate rose from $13.67 in 2022 to $14.68 in 2023, an increase of 7.4%.

According to U.S. Department of Labor data, Georgia producers hired 37,536 H-2A workers in 2023, ranking the state third behind Florida (51,987) and California (40,758). Georgia’s number accounts for 9% of H-2A workers nationwide and is about 2,000 more than Georgia H-2A workers hired in 2021.

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