Barrasso, Lummis Fight President Biden’s Effort to Raise Costs for Farmers and Ranchers

April 28, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis (both R-WY) joined Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Ted Budd (R-NC) in introducing a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to overturn a Department of Labor (DOL) rule that unnecessarily overhauls the H-2A visa program and Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR). This regulatory revamp 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,” said Senator Barrasso. “This out of touch rule creates higher costs for farmers and ranchers, resulting in even higher food prices for Wyoming families. The Biden administration needs to ditch this disastrous rule and stand up for our hardworking farmers and ranchers across the country.”  

“From inflation to supply shortages, Wyoming farmers and ranchers have been through the ringer during the Biden administration,” said Senator Lummis. “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.” 

The CRA is supported by more than 550 agriculture organizations across America. 

The DOL’s H-2A visa program plays a key role in filling gaps in the US farm labor market through the utilization of seasonal labor.  H-2A labor is essential for many American farms to remain sufficiently staffed for the planting, cultivating and harvesting of crops.  Almost half of H-2A labor is employed by small businesses, so affordable wages and a maximization of the H-2A hiring process are both critical—especially for smaller farms.  According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, labor already accounts for nearly 40% of total production costs on some farms. This new rule will only raise that cost nationwide and will create a new layer of complexity for employers who rely on the H-2A program.  

Summary of the Rule

  • The AEWR is the minimum amount of payment that DOL requires employers to offer to H-2A visa agricultural workers. 
  • Under the new DOL rule, several job types on farms will have separate and higher AEWRs. 
  • This change not only inflates H-2A wage rates, it also creates a massive administrative burden for all H-2A farmers who now have to separately track every activity of each employee on their farms to avoid violating the new rule. 
  • 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.