The Department of Labor recently released new rules surrounding the H-2A program’s Adverse Effect Wage Rate. The new rules will change the way employers file job orders and the wages of some employees could be significantly changed. The biggest change is if an employer has a job that does’t fit one of the six classifications that are sampled in the USDA NASS Farm Labor Survey, the job could get a wage other than the traditional AEWR.
Many H-2A users have been shocked in the past two years by HUGE increases in the Adverse Effect Wage Rate. The rate is supposed to make sure that the employers don’t use the program to adversely affect the wages for similar jobs in the local area. The government didn’t want to depress wages by using ‘cheap foreign labor’. To determine this they have used various means but in recent years, they have been using the USDA National Ag Statistics Service Farm Labor Survey results as a floor. Overly simple logic says that any wages below the average will pull it down and ‘adversely’ affect those receiving that average.
The new rule seeks to make sure the H-2A program not only doesn’t adversely affect those field and livestock workers but also other occupations that are done on the farm but are not field and tractor type work. There are six classifications that are sampled in the FLS. The vast majority of jobs that H-2A employers have are going to be in those jobs but there are some such as Truck Drivers, Crew Leader/manager etc. that would be outside and will have to have a different wage. For these jobs, the DoL is looking to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Wage Survey. The OEWS samples a lot fewer employers to get its data and doesn’t differentiate regions as much as the FLS does. This could translate into a ginner in S. GA having to pay truck driver rates that employers in ATL pay. It could also mean that those jobs would need a separate contract. We’re still working to understand the new rule and its implications.
The National Council of Ag Employers is an organization that has the H-2A program as one of its main issues. They are planning on contesting this new rule in court but in the mean time, they will be holding a webinar next Tuesday March 21, at 3 PM EDT on this new rule. If you’re interested, you may want to attend. I am attaching below some background material and you can find a link to the actual rule here.
This will not be the last we will write on the new AEWR rules. Please work with your provider (agent, lawyer, FLC etc. ) to see how this new rule could change the way you file and pay your workers. Register for the NCAE Webinar HERE.
The 2023 Ginners Schools open for registration. The three schools are going as planned without the restrictions on attendance they had last year. The Schools are set for March 27-29 in Lubbock, May 2-4 in Las Cruces, NM, and June 6-8 in Stoneville, MS.
Please see the PDF below for more information and how to register. We hope you’ll be able to make one of the schools this year.
The 2023 Train-the-Trainer Safety Seminars have been scheduled. We have scheduled TWO Seminars this year. These seminars are targeted to the individuals doing the actual training and/or day-to-day supervision in the gin. Participants will get approximately a day and a half of classroom time and as much hands on time as necessary to demonstrate proficiency to the instructors.
There are a couple reasons to consider this seminar beside the general safety information provided. The first is a lot of practical knowledge surrounding OSHA rules and regulations. The instructors have many years (decades) of experience dealing with OSHA in Agriculture and General Industry. Another is that the participants will leave the seminars with all the materials and knowledge necessary to train other employees on Powered Industrial Trucks (Fork lifts and Bale Squeezes) and Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (Scissor Lifts and Boom Lifts).
April 25-27 we will hold the school at Associated Cotton Growers Gin. This gin will host the group for all three days of classroom and hands on training. May 9-11 we will be holding the classroom time at the Holiday Inn in Greenville, NC and the hands-on at the Pitt County Gin in Bethel, NC.
Please see our SEMINAR PAGEfor more information, Registration and Draft Syllabus for the seminars. Space is Limited to 25 per Session.
This week nearly 30 producers and Ginners from the Southeast went to to Washington DC to meet with most of the Congressional representation from our region. The group flew to Washington on Monday, Feb 27 and had nearly 60 meetings over the next day and a half on the Hill.
This is an annual trip held by the Southern Cotton Growers Government Relations Committee. For the past several years, the group has invited the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Executive Committee to join in the trip. This year many of the producers were also Ginners or tightly connected to the ginning community.
This is the first time we’ve had a chance to go on such a trip in three years. The last trip was just before Covid shut everything down in March of 2020.
With this being a Farm Bill year, it was the main topic of conversation. While nearly every special interest in the country has a lobbyist in DC, having actual constituents affected by the laws they write has a much bigger impact than can be explained here. Being able to hear about the actual effect of the cost of diesel or fertilizer prices from people back home leaves a serious impression. Another topic front of mind for many on the trip was the H-2A Program and the recent 14% increase in the AEWR. On Monday, the Department of Labor released some changes in the AEWR that will make it the program even more cumbersome and potentially more expensive than it already is. More details are forthcoming.
One of the biggest highlights was a to be able to visit with House Ag Committee Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson and Ag Committee staff. We appreciate the Chairman’s time and his staff for meeting with us.
If it were not for the support of producers and ginners in the Southeast Cotton Committee (SECC) political action committee we would not be able to get the appointments we were able to have. If you would like more information on how to participate in SECC, please contact Susan Garrick in our office.
We would like to thank those that went on the trip and the members who were able to meet with us and especially the National Cotton Council Staff on helping to facilitating the trip.
For many years, the USDA has collected and reported the cost of ginning in the form of a Beltwide paper. The data was only collected every three years and was a paper survey. Participation in the survey has, historically been quite low. WE NEED YOUR HELP.
A few years ago, National Cotton Ginners, and USDA developed an electronic version of the GIn Cost Survey. This survey collects all the same information they have in the past but you can fill it out each year to get a much better idea and higher resolution for the cost of ginning. We get requests every year for information on what it costs to run a gin. We rely on the aggregated data to help those folks. Who uses the summaries? A lot of people. Most relevant are when we’re discussing things on farm bill or H-2A etc.
There are additional benefits to YOU by using the electronic survey. The electronic USDA/NCGA version of the cost survey will allow you to track your gin’s variable cost and compare your individual gin to other gins in the region. Additionally, there are a number of charts and graphs, using historical data, that can be generated. The electronic survey will allow for the annual input of a gin’s data and will allow you to include past years’ data if desired. The data is strictly confidential, and the data will be shown only in aggregate. Ginning cost and the ability for the industry to track these costs are extremely important. This data is used for cost comparisons in the Southeast and is used nationally in both farm bill discussions and discussions with USDA. Ginning cost data also will be an important discussion point in programs, such as the US Cotton Trust Protocol and, in particular, energy use.
The National Cotton Council released their expected plantings for 2023. The survey results reduced the Southeastern acres by less than 10 percent. The US is down about 17 percent. The Council’s expectations bring the SE to 2.41 Million Acres down from 2.662 million that were planted in 2022. More details can be found on the NCC Website but thought you’d like to see the SE regions Sooner than later.