Specialty crop farms spent more than three times more money on labor costs than other types of operations, according to data from USDA’s 2018 Agricultural Resources Management Survey.
According to a release from USDA's Economic Research Service, 39% of the total expenses for the farms — which produce fruits, vegetables and nursery crops — came from labor costs. Because these operations rely the most on labor, they are also at the most risk for labor shortages or wage shocks.
Dairy farms came second in spending on labor costs at 14%, something ERS said was due to “large dairy farms mainly relying on hired labor.” Both corn and soybean farms, which largely rely on unpaid operator and family labor, spent less than 4% on labor costs.
According to farm labor data from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the number of hired workers declined from 2.33 million to 1.15 million between 1950 and 1990, but has since stabilized. In the 2018 Agriculture Resource Management Survey, USDA looked at both paid employees and contracted workers when compiling the data for hired farm labor and found that a total of 13% of input costs across all farm types were associated with farm labor.
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