- Dec 11, 2018
New White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is working with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to see how to reduce wage rates for foreign guest workers on American farms, in order to help U.S. farmers struggling during the coronavirus, according to U.S. officials and sources familiar with the plans.
Opponents of the plan argue it will hurt vulnerable workers and depress domestic wages.
The measure is the latest effort being pushed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help U.S farmers who say they are struggling amid disruptions in the agricultural supply chain compounded by the outbreak; the industry was already hurting because of President Trump's tariff war with China.
"The administration is considering all policy options during this unprecedented crisis to ensure our great farmers are protected, and President Trump has done and will do everything he can to support their vital mission," a White House official told NPR.
The nation's roughly 2.5 million agricultural laborers have been officially declared "essential workers" as the administration seeks to ensure that Americans have food to eat and that U.S. grocery stores remain stocked. Workers on the H-2A seasonal guest-worker program are about 10% of all farmworkers.
The effort to provide "wage relief" to U.S. farmers follows an announcement Friday by the USDA to develop a program that will include direct payments to farmers and ranchers hurt by the coronavirus. Trump said Friday that he has directed Perdue to provide at least $16 billion in relief.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is working with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to see how wage rates for immigrant farmworkers can be reduced. Critics say doing so will hurt all workers.