As of April 2017, only six states in the US report average farmworker wages below $12/hour--AR, LA, MS, GA, SC and AL. This USDA wage survey data includes field workers, livestock workers, and other roles like tractor drivers. For all farm labor, the US average is now $13.23/hour.
If you look at field workers alone, the average hourly wage in the US was $12.22 as of April 2017, with just a few regions below $12/hour: Appalachia, Florida, MS Delta, Southern Plains and the Rocky Mountain Regions.
Wages are up 50% on average nationally and in California since 2008.
This USDA survey data rings true as Ganaz works with growers across the country on recruiting. Jobs posted for $13+/hr have mountains of applicants. Jobs posted for $12+/hr almost always get quite a few applicants. And jobs in the $11 range not only have had almost no applicants, the reaction from farmworkers to these jobs is swift and negative. Comments range from, "Why would I take this job if I can wash dishes for $13?" to "That's not even enough to feed our family."
So what's a farmer to do? Obviously, keeping informed of and staying at or above average wages in your region is critical. It's also no secret that the more you can enhance your wages offering with benefits, the easier it is to attract and especially retain workers.
- Housing is the holy grail of benefits. While most benefits help with retention, housing also really helps with attracting new applicants. Easier said than done, though, right?
- Season-end bonuses are common practice in some regions & products, but rare in others. If you're struggling with retention & productivity, tying a season-end bonus to productivity (and making it at least 5% of wages) can help
What's your secret sauce for attracting and retaining great farmworkers?
Here's the USDA April wage data broken down by state for field workers alone (excludes livestock and other farm roles) down by region:
New England & NY: 13.43
NY, NJ, PA, MD, DE: 12.09
NC, VA: 11.69
KY, TN, WV: 11.49
AL, GA, SC: 10.55
MI, MN, WI: 12.58
IL, IN OH: 13.17
IA, MO: 12.60
AR, LA, MS: 10.73
KS, NE, ND, SD: 14.81
OK, TX: 11.54
ID, MT, WY: 11.60
CO, NV UT: 11.48
AZ, NM: 10.62
OR, WA: 12.87
US average Field worker wage: 12.22