COA 2017: Direct-Hire Farm Workers
June 17, 2019
The Census of Agriculture collected data on hired farm labor for 2017. Section 29 of the questionnaire asked farm operators to report how many directly hired workers worked on their operation for more and less than 150 days. Farmers also reported the total number of migrant workers, defined as foreign and domestic and direct hire and contract workers who could not return to their usual home because of work on the responding farm.
The direct-hire farm worker data highlight three items: most directly hired workers were on farms with 10 or more workers, most are employed on the responding farm for less than 150 days, and California has 20 percent of the largest US farm employers.
First, a quarter of US farms reported hiring workers directly, and they hired an average 4.4 workers. However, the 35,500 US farms that hired 10 or more workers hired an average 37 workers and accounted for almost 60 percent of all workers hired. In California, the 6,400 farms that hired 10 or more workers employed an average 48 workers and accounted for over 80 percent of the state’s directly hired workers. California had a sixth of all directly hired workers and a quarter of those hired by large farm employers.
Second, two thirds of US directly hired workers, and half of California directly hired workers, were employed on the responding farm for less than 150 days. California’s large farm employers hired about the same number of more and less than 150 day workers, almost 150,000 for more and 150,000 for less than 150 days. US farm employers hired 1.3 less-than-150-day workers for every more-than-150-day worker.
Third, California had almost 20 percent of US farms that hired 10 or more workers, and accounted for a quarter of the workers hired by large farms. California was most important among large farms that hired 10 or more workers for 150 days or more, accounting for a quarter of such large farms and 30 percent of the workers hired on these farms.
Hired farm labor data are reported in Table 7 of the COA. Some 513,100 US farm employers reported 2.4 million workers hired directly, which is about twice the average employment in US agriculture, suggesting about two unique workers for each year-round job. The 35,500 US farms that hired 10 or more workers directly, less than seven percent of all farm employers, hired almost 1.3 million workers or 52 percent of the total number of workers hired.
It is important to remember that the COA effectively counts farm jobs, not the number of unique workers employed sometime during the year. This means that a worker employed on several farms would be counted several times.
Some 239,100 US farms reported hiring 974,000 workers for 150 days or more, including 15,300 farms that hired 10 or more workers for 150 days or more and a total of 488,200 or half of all direct hires. Some 381,600 US farms hired 1.4 million workers for less than 150 days, including 18,700 that hired 647,100 workers or 46 percent of the total. This means that fewer than 20,000 US farms hired over half of US farm workers.
Some 22,100 US farms reported 399,000 migrant workers. These farms comprised two groups: 18,800 US farms hired some workers directly and reported 357,800 migrants, while 3,200 US farms used only contract labor and reported 41,100 migrant workers.
The 30,400 California farm employers reported 377,600 million workers hired directly in 2017. The 6,400 California farms that hired 10 or more workers directly, 21 percent of all farm employers, hired almost 308,600 workers or 82 percent of the total.
Some 18,400 California farms reported hiring 187,900 workers for 150 days or more, including 3,500 farms that hired 10 or more workers for 150 days or more and hired a total of 146,800 or 78 percent of all directly hired more than 150-day workers. Some 20,500 California farms hired 189,700 workers for less than 150 days, including 3,300 that hired 146,700 workers or 77 percent of the total.
There was remarkable similarity in the number of large California farms that hired workers for more and less than 150 days: some 3,500 large California employers hired three fourths of the more-than-150-day workers and three fourths of the less-than-150-day workers.
ome 3,500 California farms reported 105,100 migrant workers. These farms comprised two groups: the 2,600 California farms that hired some workers directly reported 86,200 migrants, while 950 California farms that used only contract labor reported 18,900 migrant workers.