March 19, 2024

Young, Colleagues Urge Freeze to Ag Wage Rate That Could Threaten America’s Agriculture Independence

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) joined Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and a group of Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Senate leadership urging that a freeze to the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) be included in the earliest possible legislative vehicle. 

“The increasing cost of labor for agriculture producers is unsustainable. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the national average AEWR will be $17.55 this year. That represents an increase of 5.6 percent from 2023, the third year in a row the AEWR increased by over five percent.  In fact, the national average AEWR has more than doubled since 2005.  This is compounded by the increased costs of inputs like energy and fertilizer, other guest worker expenses such as housing and transportation, and forthcoming expenses imposed by new regulations and fees,” the senators wrote.

“If costs continue to increase as they have, the pressure put on America’s food producers will fundamentally shift the food production model that has allowed us to be agriculturally independent and secure. In order to support our farmers and ranchers and feed families across the country, we must act now,” the senators continued.

The American Farm Bureau supports the letter.

“Farmers are suffering through a worsening labor crisis, and something must be done to modernize an outdated farmworker system. While a permanent solution is needed, we appreciate these lawmakers who are working to deliver short-term relief so farmers can continue to grow the food America’s families rely on,” said John Walt Boatright, Director of Government Affairs at American Farm Bureau.

An increased AEWR went into effect on January 1, 2024, and nationally, the rate increased by 5.6 percent. Unsustainable increases in the AEWR are especially harmful to small and family-operated farms, who are already limiting operations because they cannot afford to hire enough labor. The AEWR is one of many increasing costs farmers face, and its unsustainable increases could threaten national food security and shift production outside the United States.

In addition to Senators Young and Crapo, the letter was also signed by Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

Full text of the letter is available here.