There were 1,157,000 hired workers on the nation's farms and ranches during the week of Oct. 10-16, 2010, up 4% from a year ago. Of these hired workers, 826,000 were hired directly by farm operators. Agricultural service employees on farms and ranches made up the remaining 331,000 workers.

The largest increases in the number of hired workers from last year occurred in California, and in the Corn Belt I (Illinois, Indiana and Ohio), Appalachian I (North Carolina and Virginia) and Northern Plains (Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) regions. Above normal winter precipitation in California allowed more acreage to be cropped due to increased availability of irrigation water. Therefore, more hired workers were needed. In the remaining three regions, weather conditions were virtually ideal compared with last year's excessively wet reference week. This caused increased demand for field workers as the corn and soybean harvests progressed rapidly.

The largest decreases in the number of hired workers from last year occurred in the Southeast (Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina), Pacific (Oregon and Washington) and Southern Plains (Oklahoma and Texas) regions. Abnormally dry conditions in the Southeast and Southern Plains regions slowed small grain seeding and reduced the demand for hired workers. In the Pacific region, above-normal rains kept pasture grasses plentiful and lessened the need for livestock movement. This led to fewer workers being required.

2010 farm worker wage rates

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $11.13/hour during the October 2010 reference week, up 20¢ from a year earlier. Field workers received an average of $10.49/hour, up 27¢ from last October, while livestock workers earned $10.27/hour compared with $10.28 a year earlier. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate – $10.43/hour – was up 19¢ from last year. The number of hours worked averaged 41.7 for hired workers during the survey week, up 7% from a year ago.

Hired worker wage rates were generally above a year ago in most regions. The largest increases occurred in the Northeast II (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania), Northeast I (New England and New York), Corn Belt II (Iowa and Missouri) and Lake (Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin) regions. In the two Northeast regions, the higher wages were due to strong demand from the nursery and greenhouse industry. The higher wages in the Corn Belt II region were due to strong demand for skilled workers to help with the grain harvest. In the Lake region, the higher wages were due to more salaried workers working fewer hours, which pushed the average wage up.

The 2010 U.S. all hired worker annual average wage rate was $10.95/hour, up 1% from the 2009 annual average wage rate of $10.83. The U.S. field worker annual average wage rate was $10.19/hour, up 12¢ from last year's annual average. The field and livestock combined annual average wage rate at the U.S. level was $10.22/hour, up 1% from last year's annual average wage rate of $10.12.

SPECIAL NOTE:  Revisions have been made to workers, hours, and wages for California and the U.S. for the July 2008 through April 2010 time period. These revisions are published in Quick Stats 2.0 accessible via the NASS website. Further explanation of these revisions is provided on page 22 of this publication.