Average farmworker wages still trending higher
The USDA latest Labor Survey reports the average farmworker earned $15.87 per hour during October, up six percent compared to the same period in 2019.
Farms however hired less workers, down six percent, likely because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Labor Survey results are used to set minimum labor rates for H-2A guest workers and American Farm Bureau says the release of this latest report has been delayed after several court cases battled potential changes to rates. In the end, the methodology for the program remains the same.
Analysis by Farm Bureau finds by comparison, private industry worker wages increased by less than three percent during 2020.
Rates are expected to increase 4.5 percent, or by about 63 cents., on average in 2021.
Farm Bureau says the variability across rates for field and livestock workers is considerable with wages increasing nine to 35 percent for workers depending on region over the past five years.
Farmworkers in the Pacific region earned the most at $17.45 per hour in 2020, while workers in the Delta earned the least at $11.75.
The 2020 all hired worker annual average gross wage rate was $15.49 per hour, up four percent from the previous year.
Many farmers say the year-over-year wage increases are not sustainable with current commodity prices and production expenses.