Employment on farm numbers a mixed bag
Hiring on farms across the country rose nearly 10 percent in April, the USDA said late last month, while hiring regionally fell by nearly 11 percent.
In the week of April 12-18, farm operators nationally hired 688,000 workers, up from 629,000 last year, according to the USDA’s most recent labor report.
In its Northeast 2 region, which includes Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, hiring fell from 28,000 last year to 25,000.
Farms in the region hired 4,000 fewer short-term workers, who are expected to be employed 149 days or fewer.
Wages in April also rose nationally 2 percent to an average of $15.07 per hour, data show.
Regionally, wages rose more than 4 percent to $15.24 per hour, while the average field worker earns $14.64 per hour and the average livestock worker earns $13.42.
Nationwide, farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $15.28 per hour during the January 2020 reference week, up 2 percent from the same month a year before, the USDA said.
Field workers received an average of $14.18 per hour, up 3 percent, while livestock workers earned $14.22 per hour, also up 3 percent from a year earlier.
The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $14.20 per hour, was up 3 percent from the January 2019 reference week.
Hired laborers worked an average of 40.2 hours during the January 2020 reference week, up 2 percent from the hours worked during the January 2019 reference week.
After the coronavirus spread across the country in March, shuttering schools and businesses, President Donald Trump deemed farm employees “essential workers,” including many illegal immigrants important to the produce and livestock industries.
Agricultural officials initially worried that a crackdown on travel would keep many immigrants from U.S. fields, though federal officials have weakened immigration enforcement in recent weeks to accommodate the farming industry.
The agricultural industry continues to struggle with a chronic labor shortage, which can hobble the growth of existing farms and the creation of new ones.
The number of immigrant farmers hired legally through the federal government’s H-2A program doubled over the last five years to roughly 250,000.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925