Western hired farm labor numbers show decline, wages up

California was among several states that saw the largest decline in the number of hired farm workers, according to an Aug. 18 report released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The report said U.S. farm hired worker numbers dropped 11 percent in the last year to 1,202,000 workers. Meanwhile, U.S. farm labor wages rose 4 percent. The figures are based on the period from July 9-15, 2006.

Of the U.S. hired workers, 875,000 workers were hired directly by farm operators. Agricultural service employees on farms and ranches made up the remaining 327,000 workers.

U.S. farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $9.74 per hour during the July 2006 reference week, up 36 cents from a year earlier. Field workers received an average of $8.95 per hour, up 34 cents from last July, while livestock workers earned $9.56 per hour compared with $9.26 a year earlier. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $9.10 per hour, was up 32 cents from last year.

The number of hours worked nationally averaged 40.9 hours for hired workers during the survey week, up 1 percent from a year ago.

The largest decreases in the number of hired farm workers occurred in California, Oregon, Washington, the New England states, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa and Missouri. The largest increases in farm labor numbers occurred in the Southern states.

According to NASS, California’s cool, wet spring caused considerable delays in planting and slowed development of many field and vegetable crops. The ongoing worker shortages due to the heightened security at the Mexican border, combined with the late growing season, kept the number of hired workers below last year.

Agricultural service workers in California numbered 118,000 this July, down 16 percent from last year. The average wages received by agricultural service workers in

California was $9.19, compared to $9.08 in July 2005.

For more information, visit www.usda.gov/nass.

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