Given the ‘help wanted’ signs we’re seeing everywhere, it’s no surprise that the ubiquitous labor shortage is squeezing the ag sector, too – with no signs of stopping.
The USDA’s 2021 Farm Labor quarterly report was published with April data, and it isn’t pretty.
Overall, farm wages were up by as much as 6% over 2020. 11% fewer farm workers were hired in the same period last year. And H-2A position requests are up five times since 2005 – and are being debated as the Farm Work Modernization Act moves to the Senate.
A soundbite: “The fear of exposure to Covid-19, lack of childcare, several rounds of government checks, and unusually high unemployment benefits have kept many people out of the workplace,” Sarina Sharp, Daily Dairy Report analyst, summed up.
Wage wars: Farm operations are competing for labor across industries and ultimately paying their workers more. Specialty crop farms – think produce, nut and ornamental operations – make up 52% of all farmworkers and are paying over a dollar per hour more than they were at this time last year.
Field crop workers on the West Coast are bringing home the highest wage, and gross wages for those working with livestock are up 5%.
Timely tangent: Ganaz, a workforce management platform designed specifically for farmworkers, just earned $7 million in a Series A funding round. The company aims to modernize payroll, communication and other HR functions specifically for farm operations.