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USDA’s Agricultural or Farm Labor Survey

September 9, 2019

USDA’s Agricultural or Farm Labor Survey collects data on earnings and hours worked of various types of farm workers from a sample of about 6,000 US farm employers for the week that includes the 12th of the month for January, April, July, and October (about half of the 12,000 farms contacted provide data). Employers report total wages paid and the number of hours worked for directly hired workers, including paid family members, and separate these hired workers into workers who will be employed on the farm for more than 150 days and workers who will be employed less than 150 days.

Employers are asked to complete a table with rows for data on the number of workers, their total hours worked during the survey week, and gross weekly wages; employers are asked to separate base wages, bonus wages, and overtime wages for 16 types of workers, including Agricultural Equipment Operators, Crop, Nursery and Greenhouse Farmworkers, and First-Line Supervisors of Farm Workers. Employers code workers by what they were hired to do, and there are no instructions for employers whose hired workers may hold multiple jobs during the survey week, such as operating equipment and doing hand work in crops.

Section 1 collects data for the current month (April), Section 2 collects data for the week containing the 12th of the month during the previous quarter (January), and Section 3 collects data on peak employment and whether the farm had any H-2A workers during the previous year. Section 4 collects data on the farm’s sales during the previous year by category, such as over $5 million, acres of various crops, such as all fruits and nuts and all vegetables and melons, and the share of the farm’s sales accounted for by fruits, nuts and berries, vegetables and melons, and corn and grains, that is, data on sales of individual commodities are not collected. Sections 5 and 6 collect data on farm operators.

Much of the data collected by the FLS is not published. For example, the FLS publishes data on wages by region and farm sales, finding that in California and the Pacific states hourly earnings are lowest on farms that have farm sales of less than $100,000 a year and highest on farms that have farm sales of $100,000 to $250,000. A consistent 50-55 percent of field and livestock workers were employed on “other crop” farms. Field crop farms employed 15 percent of workers and animal agriculture farms 30 percent of workers.

US farms with sales of $1 million or more accounted for 55 to 60 percent of directly hired farm workers, while US farms with 51 or more workers accounted for a third of hired workers. Regional data are not published.

The FLS publishes national data on the number of workers and average hourly earnings by SOC. During the week of July 8-14, 2018, some 390,000 of the 843,000 directly hired US workers, 46 percent, were crop farm workers (45-2092), and they earned an average $13.45 an hour. The next largest category was 166,000 animal workers (45-2093), 20 percent of direct hires, who earned an average $13.10, and the next were 150,000 equipment operators (45-2091), 18 percent of direct hires, who earned an average $14.15 an hour. Crop, livestock, and equipment operators were 84 percent of directly hired workers in July 2018.

Agricultural Labor Survey - April 2019