The Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA) supports the bill introduced in the Senate on Thursday, titled the Affordable and Secure Food Act of 2022 (ASFA). The bill is similar to the Farm Workforce Modernization Act that was passed in the House in 2021.
It would create a path to legal status for undocumented farmworkers and freeze the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) at the 2022 rates for one year and cap future increases by 3%.
Senator Michael Bennet introduced the legislation which would help address farm labor challenges.
What it Does
Specifically, the ASFA would:
- Establish a program for agriculture workers, along with their spouses and minor children, to earn legal status. Farm workers in the program may earn a path to a green card after 10 years of agriculture work.
- Reform the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker program by providing H-2A visas for year-round jobs for the first time, modernizing the application process, creating more wage certainty, and ensuring critical protections for H-2A farm workers.
- Establish a mandatory, nationwide electronic verification system for all agricultural employment, with high standards for privacy and accuracy.
- Lower the cost of and increase access to farm workers and rural housing.
Specialty crop groups in the Southeast have longed for some type of legislation that would help control the wage rates that are spiraling out of control.
Just announced following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Labor Survey, the AEWR for Georgia’s specialty crop producers would increase from $11.99 per hour in 2022 to $13.68 per hour in 2023. Florida’s new AEWR was projected to climb to $14.33. That would be up from $12.41 just a year ago. That increase more than doubled the total average for AEWR increases across the U.S. It also puts Florida facing the largest increase of any area.
“The FFVA is supportive of the bill for the wage relief it would provide, pre-empting the 2023 AEWR increases of 15.5%,” the FFVA announced.
Florida Citrus Mutual also has expressed support for the Senate legislation.
“The national labor shortage is severely impacting agriculture, threatening our nation’s food security and driving up the cost of essential groceries. While there is more work to do, the proposed Affordable and Secure Food Act is a good start that will strengthen our workforce by addressing the deeply flawed Adverse Effect Wage Rate calculation,” said Matt Joyner, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual. “We will continue to work with Congress on longer-term solutions that will ensure Americans can depend on American farmers for safe and wholesome foods.”
The bill still needs to be approved by Congress.