Oregon Agriculture and Labor
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May 16, 2022
Oregon had 37,600 farms in 2017 that produced farm commodities worth $5 billion, including 1,000 farms that each had sales of $1 million or more. Most of the state’s farms, 21,000, are engaged in animal agriculture, including 12,000 beef cattle ranches. Fewer than 10 percent of the state’s farms are greenhouses and nurseries, the commodities that account for a quarter of the state’s farm sales.
OR has a stable number of farms and rising farm sales
|Number of farms and ranches||39,975||40,033||38,553||35,439||37,616|
|Total land in agriculture (millions of acres)||17.7||17.2||16.4||16.3||16.0|
|Total ag land and buildings value (billion dollars)||17.7||20.4||31.0||31.0||38.8|
|Average value/acre (dollars)||1,005||1,185||1,802||1,882||2,433|
|Market value of farm sales (billion dollars)||3.9||3.8||4.8||4.9||5.0|
|Net farm income (billion dollars)||0.67||0.50||0.86||0.96||0.74|
In Oregon, about 70 percent of farm sales are from crops, including $1.2 billion worth of greenhouse and nursery commodities and almost $569 million worth of hay in 2020.
Most OR crop sales are from the Willamette Valley and Columbia River counties
Data on individual Oregon crops are obscured by the fact that nursery crops, grass seed and hops and spearmint oil are often grouped with the miscellaneous crops that account for a third of the state’s farm sales.
Greenhouse, nursery, and other miscellaneous crops account for a third of OR’s $5 billion farm sales
Leading labor-intensive fruits included cherries worth $133 million in 2020, blueberries worth $120 million, and apples worth $39 million. Bearing cherry acreage has been stable at about 12,000 acres, but yields have been rising toward an average five tons an acre.
Cherries are the most valuable labor-intensive fruit
|Crop and production unit||2019||2020|
|Yield per acre
|Value of production
|Yield per acre
|Value of production
|Wheat, winter bushels||730.0||68.0||49,640||284,437||725.0||64.0||46,400||273,760||Barley bushels||35.0||78.0||2,730||10,374||30.0||72.0||2,160||8,424||Oats bushels||9.0||97.0||873||(D)||7.0||100.0||700||1,834||Corn, grain bushels||49.0||237.0||11,613||50,400||65.0||241.0||15,665||77,542||Corn, silage tons||35.0||24.0||840||(NA)||34.0||23.0||782||(NA)||Sugarbeets tons||9.8||38.5||377||19,189||9.4||40.9||384||(NA)||Hay, all tons||970.0||3.5||3,362||657,580||960.0||3.1||2,976||569,160||Hay, alfalfa tons||400.0||4.7||1,880||376,000||360.0||4.6||1,656||339,480||Hay, other tons||570.0||2.6||1,482||281,580||600.0||2.2||1,320||229,680||Potatoes cwt||42.9||590.0||25,311||233,874||45.0||600.0||27,000||216,000||Hops pounds||7.3||1,783.0||13,023||71,628||7.1||1,755.0||12,469||74,812||Peppermint pounds||19.0||95.0||1,805||35,559||18.0||96.0||1,728||34,042||Spearmint pounds||2.3||125.0||288||4,579||2.6||100.0||260||(D)|
|Fruit and Nut crops|
|Apples pounds||5.0||30,000.0||150,000||38,746||5.0||35,000.0||175,000||39,208||Cherries, sweet pounds||12.5||9,160.0||114,400||75,221||12.0||9,400.0||112,800||133,826||Hazelnuts tons||50.0||0.9||45||86,400||60.0||1.1||63||132,300||Pears, all tons||14.4||15.7||226||104,159||13.9||15.1||210||97,552|
|Blueberries pounds||13.3||11,700.0||155,500||134,254||13.5||11,400.0||154,000||119,648||Cranberries barrels||2.7||206.8||558||16,562||2.8||215.6||604||21,337|
|Snap Beans cwt||12.2||150.0||1,830||27,909||10.0||135.0||1,350||20,558||Green Peas cwt||17.5||34.0||595||6,896||14.6||34.0||496||5,862||Onion, all cwt||20.3||735.0||14,921||108,409||19.8||803.0||15,892||5||Sweet Corn, all cwt||23.7||205.0||4,859||38,103||25.7||190.0||4,883||1,034|
Labor. Some 10,300 OR farms, about a quarter of all farms, reported $1 billion in expenses for hired farm labor in the 2017 COA. Fewer than 1,700 OR farms had labor expenses of $100,000 or more, and they accounted for 90 percent of the state’s farm labor expenses. Some 4,600 farms (often the same farms with direct hire expenses) reported $170 million for contract labor expenses, for a total of almost $1.2 billion, making labor costs a quarter of the state’s farm sales.
Census data that summarize farm production expenses by NAICS (Table 75) reported that 450 vegetable (NAICS 1112) farms had $92 million in direct-hire labor expenses, 1,860 fruit farms (1112) had $223 million in direct-hire labor expenses, and 1,200 greenhouse and nursery (1114) farms had $325 million in direct-hire labor expenses. FVH agriculture accounted for $640 million or almost two-thirds of the $1 billion in OR direct-hire farm labor expenses.
Census county data (Table 7) report that 10,300 farms hired 86,250 workers; workers who were employed on two farms were counted twice. As with farm labor expenses, hired farm workers were concentrated on the largest farms. The 1,500 farms that hired 10 or more workers employed 62,000 or 72 percent of all directly hired workers. Most of the workers who were hired directly were employed on the responding farm for less than 150 days, some 59,000 or almost 70 percent were seasonal hires.
Employers reported 86,000 hired workers in 2017, including 70% on the farm less than 150 days
|Hired farm labor|
|Farms with 1 worker ............ farms||3,058||68||69||284||20||43|
|Farms with 1 worker ............ workers||3,058||68||69||284||20||43|
|Farms with 2 workers ............ farms||2,185||52||49||238||6||55|
|Farms with 2 workers ............ workers||4,370||104||98||476||12||110|
|Farms with 3 or 4 workers ............ farms||1,942||23||70||196||6||48|
|Farms with 3 or 4 workers ............ workers||6,670||75||247||672||22||161|
|Farms with 5 to 9 workers ............ farms||1,604||34||48||169||14||20|
|Farms with 5 to 9 workers ............ workers||10,171||217||301||1,078||(D)||128|
|Farms with 10 workers or more ............ farms||1,505||13||34||144||2||9|
|Farms with 10 workers or more ............ workers||61,971||215||898||5,713||(D)||368|
|Workers who worked 150 days or more|
|Farms with 1 worker ............ farms||1,631||33||56||122||5||14|
|Farms with 1 worker ............ workers||1,631||33||56||122||5||14|
|Farms with 2 workers ............ farms||984||23||31||65||-||16|
|Farms with 2 workers ............ workers||1,968||46||62||130||-||32|
|Farms with 3 or 4 workers ............ farms||875||19||27||57||2||4|
|Farms with 3 or 4 workers ............ workers||2,935||(D)||86||198||(D)||13|
|Farms with 5 to 9 workers ............ farms||663||24||15||56||6||2|
|Farms with 5 to 9 workers ............ workers||4,114||133||95||350||42||(D)|
|Farms with 10 workers or more ............ farms||543||1||12||68||1||2|
|Farms with 10 workers or more ............ workers||16,913||(D)||270||2,565||(D)||(D)|
|Workers who worked less than 150 days|
|Farms with 1 worker ............ farms||2,677||58||74||226||18||38|
|Farms with 1 worker ............ workers||2,677||58||74||226||18||38|
|Farms with 2 workers ............ farms||1,903||33||60||225||5||50|
|Farms with 2 workers ............ workers||3,806||66||120||450||10||100|
|Farms with 3 or 4 workers ............ farms||1,596||24||46||173||7||41|
|Farms with 3 or 4 workers ............ workers||5,424||82||160||588||(D)||134|
|Farms with 5 to 9 workers ............ farms||1,075||8||21||119||8||19|
|Farms with 5 to 9 workers ............ workers||6,720||49||131||738||(D)||132|
|Farms with 10 workers or more ............ farms||1,008||9||27||101||1||6|
|Farms with 10 workers or more ............ workers||40,052||135||559||2,856||(D)||165|
|Reported only workers working 150 days or more|
|Reported only workers working less than 150 days|
|Reported both - workers working 150 days or more and workers less than 150 days|
|150 days or more ............ workers||19,916||167||451||2,323||(D)||194|
|Less than 150 days ............ farms||2,661||42||99||181||5||17|
|Less than 150 days ............ workers||40,646||179||581||2,880||(D)||192|
|Less than 150 days ............ $1,000 payroll||746,269||5,895||17,418||73,085||1,514||(D)|
|Total migrant workers|
|Migrant farm labor on farms with hired labor ............ farms||576||6||15||40||1||-|
|Migrant farm labor on farms with hired labor ............ workers||19,384||29||333||949||(D)||-|
Four counties accounted for over 40 percent of Oregon’s hired workers, led by over 13,000 workers hired in Marion county and 7,000 to 8,000 each in Clackamas, Hood River, and Wasco counties.
Oregon requires almost all farm employers to participate in unemployment insurance. UI data find half as many employers as the COA, 4,600 establishments in 2020, an average 53,000 workers, and $2.1 billion in wages paid or an average $770 a week. The UI average employment is akin to year-round job slots; there are often two workers per year-round job, so OR could have over 100,000 unique farm workers. UI farm wages are significantly higher than COA farm labor expenses.
Employment in OR crop agriculture (111) rose over 10 percent between 2000 and 2020 as seasonality declined. Peak-month employment was over 40,000 workers in July 2020, almost twice trough-month employment of 22,000 in January. In 2003, peak July crop employment was 44,000 and trough January employment was less than 17,000 for a peak-trough ratio of 2.6.
Average employment on Oregon crop farms fell during the first decade of the 21^(st) century to a low of 25,000 in 2011 and rose to over 29,000 by 2020. Unlike the fewer and larger story in most states, Oregon has a rising number of UI crop employers—their number rose 70 percent from 1,700 in 2011 to 2,500 in 2020.
Growth in crop employers is faster than growth in crop employment since 2011
Almost half of Oregon crop employment is in two sectors. Greenhouse and nursery farms account for over a third of average employment in Oregon crop agriculture, and non-apple tree fruits such as cherries and pears account for almost 15 percent. Greenhouse and nursery employment fell from a peak of almost 13,000 in 2007 to 10,000 in 2020, while non-apple tree fruit employment peaked at 4,700 in 2013-14 and was 4,000 in 2020.
Average greenhouse and nursery employment peaked in 2007; cherry and pear employment peaked in 2013-14
Marion county’s 100 greenhouse and nursery establishments account for a third of OR’s greenhouse and nursery employment, and pay average weekly wages of $780.
Greenhouse and nursery farms pay higher wages than non-apple tree fruit farms, an average 50 percent more or $775 versus $520 a week in 2020. The greenhouse and nursery wage premium peaked at 65 percent over non-apple tree fruit in 2003-04, and was only 35 percent in 2016. Average weekly wages represent total wages paid by employers in a particular commodity divided by average employment in that commodity, and may not reflect the peak hourly piece rate earnings of harvest workers.
Average weekly wages in G&N are 50 percent higher than in cherries and pears
OR and WA are important producers of cherries and pears. A comparison of average weekly wages in this sector over the past two decades shows that wages were higher in Oregon between 2001 and 2003, after which wages in Washington were higher, peaking in 2014 when WA farm wages were almost 20 percent higher than OR farm wages. In 2020, average WA cherry and pear weekly wages of $585 were almost 15 percent higher than OR’s $520.
WA’s average weekly wages in cherries and pears are about 15% higher than in OR