Rick Scott seeks freeze on wage increases for H-2A field workers

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The Senator signed a Mike Crapo letter seeking a 'freeze' to the Adverse Effect Wage Rate.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott is among the 15 signatories to a U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo letter seeking a “freeze” to the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR).

This rate applies to “temporary nonimmigrant workers under the H-2A visa classification,” according to the federal Department of Labor.

While Florida’s $14.77 compensation rate for these field workers is among the lowest in the country, Scott and the other Republicans on the letter seek a moratorium, especially given the rate of increase.

Nationally, the average wage has more than doubled in the last two decades. The Labor Department justifies that nominal salary escalation on the grounds that “agricultural employers play a vital role in our nation’s economy and that obtaining a reliable workforce is critical to producing the U.S. food supply.”

“The Department is also bound by its statutory mandate to protect workers in the U.S. from adverse effects on their wages or working conditions resulting from hiring foreign workers. AEWRs are the minimum hourly wage rates that must be offered and paid by employers to H-2A workers and workers in corresponding employment.”

For Senate Republicans, the increase in those rates is unacceptable and unsustainable.

“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,” the letter continues.

“The United States already imports much of our fruit and produce, as operating costs and competition from abroad have driven out many domestic producers. If we continue with these unsustainable policies, we are not only damaging our country’s longstanding agricultural heritage but also threatening our domestic food supply.”

Constituents “will be forced to make tough decisions about which crops they will be able to afford to hire enough labor to harvest this year,” the letter adds.

“Others, including small and family-run operations, will be unable to afford the added labor costs and forced to shutter operations altogether. We must act now to support our farmers and ranchers and feed families across the country.”

The Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association backs the position of Scott and other Senators.

“Since 2013, Florida’s Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) has increased by 48%. In 2023 alone, the Florida AEWR increased by 15%. These increases are sudden, unplanned expenses that have cost growers millions in additional labor and input costs at a time when other costs are already inflated. These volatile increases are due to a Department of Labor methodology which yields an artificial, self-inflated AEWR year over year and come on top of free housing and transportation that farmers provide to workers under the program. Despite this, U.S. workers are still not applying to these jobs.” the group said.

“In fact, we hear weekly from farmers in Florida who are reluctantly looking to navigate the cumbersome H-2A program to secure a workforce, due to the enduring domestic workforce shortage. We’re optimistic some of the measures currently being pursued by members of Congress, including Sen. Scott, will provide some short-term relief and fuel conversations for comprehensive agricultural labor reform which is necessary to strengthen our nation’s food security.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


21 comments

  • Julia

    March 11, 2024 at 6:06 pm

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  • Afraid of working hard or paying taxes so others can: Floridians

    March 11, 2024 at 7:36 pm

    You dopes wanna pay $15 a box for Pick-Your-Own Strawberries, this how to get there.

    • FLExit, as successful as Brexit

      March 11, 2024 at 7:39 pm

      It happened in England after the Brexit; Albanians that came by the thousands seasonal to pick strawberries weren’t aloud back in and the lazy Brits didn’t want to do it themselves.

  • Michael K

    March 11, 2024 at 7:37 pm

    The Republicans are not “pro-life.” They rely on the cheap labor of “disposable” migrants whom they vilify and demean. Let Sens. Scott and Rubio spend a day working in an industrial slaughterhouse, and a day working in an agricultural field in the sweltering Florida heat, and tell us how they live on $14 an hour.

    Neither one would last an hour.

    • FLExit, as successful as Brexit

      March 11, 2024 at 7:55 pm

      I pulled fish on a conveyor belt in Alaska; it’s a Hollywood fantasy for Floridiots.

    • Margarette

      March 12, 2024 at 6:27 pm

      Truth! And considering the price of rent in South Florida, $14 an hour barely gets you sufficient living conditions.

  • Michael roberts

    March 11, 2024 at 7:47 pm

    is he serious ? he shouldn’t paid a cent for his effort.

  • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

    March 11, 2024 at 7:52 pm

    Rick us True Republicans are trying to WIN this election. This is not the time or place to bring up this Ag. Worker Wage Freeze …. unless your dum @55 wants 4 more of “Sleepy Joe”.
    Son henceforth you are required to run ALL of your up-coming “press releases” thru ME, Earl Pitts American, for MY Sage Approval prior to release.
    Call me on my Special Cell prior to doing or saying anything in the future.
    Earl Pitts American

    • FLExit, as successful as Brexit

      March 11, 2024 at 7:57 pm

      You win, Earl.

      Eggs are heading to $7.99 a 10-Pack (!) because White Christian’s can’t do manual labor.

      But no income tax, so a win!

      • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

        March 11, 2024 at 8:46 pm

        Thank you for your love, adaoration, support, and your understandable “HERO WORSHIP” of ME, Earl Pitts American.
        I know exactly where its all coming from as I have a mirrow and if it wasent unethical I, Earl Pitts American would fall in love with myself just like you love Earl.
        Have an “Earl Pitts American” evening and scream my name at climax.
        “EARL EARL EARL EARL

  • Why are they still here?

    March 11, 2024 at 8:11 pm

    This combined with new laws preventing municipalities from requiring worker protections plus the vilification of immigrant labor force and you have the perfect storm to destroy the foundations of Florida’s economy—agriculture and construction. The above commenter is correct. Britain had over decades depressed and destroyed local farming due to many political factors not unlike Florida, and simultaneously shifted to EU imports, meanwhile relying on cheap outsourced labor for what remained in British agriculture. Brexit supporters were in many cases the land workers and producers who were decimated by decades of bad policy which didn’t support them, but the table was already set when Brexit happened because now they had a depressed national agricultural economy and had to pay much more to import from the EU and elsewhere in addition to more for labor for what remained. It was the wrong thing, too late. The US always seems hellbent on repeating mistakes by the UK roughly 1-2 decades later because policymakers refuse to study or think it applies. It’s uncanny. These factors, combined with Russia’s onslaught against Ukraine, where most or the world’s grains are now produced (because the US decided decade after decade to destroy its own agricultural base), and there are some serious issues right now affecting food production and costs. Most of the world’s agricultural producers depend on fertilizer made from liquid natural gas, LNG, and the constraints from Russia and depleted US production, all politics and ecology aside, has put a huge crimp on production costs. There’s just a lot right now. If Florida, and the US, doesn’t support its agricultural sector including all labor, farmers, land, etc., then they’re signing the death warrant and everyone will pay. Yes it’s a balance and it’s complicated but there are many ways to go about it. not the least of which could be some kind of agricultural tax to keep food prices lower—sounds counterintuitive but it’s possible. Especially since so much is getting imported from China now. How about taxing China fair duties instead of getting a free pass to dump on US farmers and ranchers and still get their USDA stickers. Not to mention look at how much political pork gets thrown around for fake crony issues when this is real and critical. But scoot and rube are utterly tone deaf and short sighted. Not interested in policy. Can we please get rid of them already.

    • MH/Duuuval

      March 12, 2024 at 10:14 pm

      In fact, in 2016, close to 90% of the food and beverage products consumed in America were produced in the U.S.

      Record U.S. FY 2022 Agricultural Exports to China

      USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (.gov)
      https://fas.usda.gov › data › record-us-fy-2022-agricult…

      Jan 6, 2023 — U.S. corn exports to China exceeded $4.8 billion in FY 2022, down from a record in FY 2021, but still the second-highest level on record.

      • Why are they still here?

        March 13, 2024 at 7:53 pm

        Interesting, thanks, I will look at that. Things have changed exponentially since 2016 regarding agricultural imports from China, which is now the world’s top agricultural producer according to UN Food and and Agricultural Organization, valued at over $1.5T. The US exports are largely industrially produced soybeans and corn. What ends up on people’s plates is another matter and increasingly those fruits, vegetables, grains, and meat come from China and other countries, as we can all see in the grocery store. A lot of fast food meats are from China (McDonald’s). Canada and Mexico are the biggest ag trade partners with the US but point of origin laws and lack of rigorous application muddies the waters. Canada’s laws allow products made or grown in China but packaged or finished in Canada to be labeled “product of Canada” which leaves it up to companies to market whether they are single origin. Similar in the US, which is why you see “packaged in the US” on a lot of labels. It is an established practice for animals used for meat production to be raised in china, where they can be slaughtered, packaged, and sent back for low value processing like fast food or dog food, or shipped back to the US for “finishing” and get their shiny USDA sticker. Reporting on that is pretty useless and lawmakers acknowledge the loopholes. It’s a complicated mess but my original point was just that domestics farmers should have a home advantage somehow if we’re going to preserve the food supply. And a big part of that is labor and workers’ rights. Being a country dependent on imports is a fragile and risky business.

  • PeterH

    March 11, 2024 at 8:29 pm

    It’s pretty obvious….. Republicans don’t want to win the 2024 election cycle! I believe they’ve simply thrown in the towel!

    Republicans are America’s worst enemy!

    Vote all Republicans out of office!

  • WGD

    March 11, 2024 at 11:45 pm

    Republican dogma – high prices are always the fault of the workers, never the fault of the owners reaping the profits.

    • MH/Duuuval

      March 12, 2024 at 10:15 pm

      It seems to be the processors that are making out like bandits — paying the farmer as little as possible and charging as much as the market will bear.

  • woke

    March 12, 2024 at 10:45 am

    Rick – “let them eat cake!”

  • seldomseensmith

    March 12, 2024 at 2:37 pm

    Trumpet sucking Rick and Little Marco need to get out in the fields.

  • MH/Duuuval

    March 13, 2024 at 10:30 am

    Scott is vulnerable in the upcoming election, which probably is why he is making so much racket. He has never won office by a large margin — let’s take him out in November.

    • It’s time

      March 13, 2024 at 8:00 pm

      Time to put Scott in one of his own nursing homes and see how he survives. Make Rubio his caretaker. See who pushes the other one over the cliff first. Hahahaha

Comments are closed.


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