Many immigration and labor advocacy groups had opposed the new rule for lowering wages and eliminating some protections for temporary farm workers. But farm owners supported the Bush administration changes, saying they eliminated red tape that made it harder to bring in foreign workers to help harvest crops.
The rule affects the H-2A guest worker program, which lets employers hire foreign workers if they can't first find American workers. The new regulation took effect on Jan. 17, just days before President Barack Obama was sworn into office.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis had proposed suspending the regulation in March. The suspension restores the old regulations governing the program while officials craft new rules.
Democrats cheered the move, saying the regulation cut oversight of the H-2A program and made it much easier for employers to hire foreign workers over available American workers.
"I commend Labor Secretary Hilda Solis for suspending this destructive midnight regulation that slashed already low wages for farm workers," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.
As many as 1 million people work in the nation's farms each year, and the Labor Department estimates that more than half are in the country illegally. Efforts to curb illegal immigration have left many growers concerned about facing fines for hiring undocumented workers.
Farm owners have long criticized the H-2A guest worker program as cumbersome and inefficient. Suspension of the regulation may pose a problem for some growers who expected to have more guest workers to help out at harvest time.