Summary of Spring Corn Belt Farm Wage Rates

What is an appropriate wage rate for hired farm labor? Many things drive negotiations on wage, including the worker’s experience, dependability, competency/skill, past wage level and the demands of the job. However, often it is necessary to identify a fair base wage rate from which to negotiate final salary and wage levels.

In this article we discuss two sources of data that can serve as a reference for employers and employees. The first is a general resource that provides information about a broad array of agricultural jobs while the second provides a narrow focus on the hog industry.

USDA Farm Labor Quarterly Report . Every 3 months, the USDA conducts a survey of farm employers throughout the US to determine the going wage rate for different types of jobs and different types of farms. USDA’s last survey of employers was conducted toward April of 2005 and is available at:

The average wage rates paid in April for hired labor in the Eastern Corn Belt, which USDA defines as Ohio , Indiana and Illinois , was $9.51 an hour. USDA breaks this down by the type of labor primarily performed by the worker. The average wage rate for field work was $8.84, for livestock work was $9.17 and for work involving both field and livestock work was $8.91.

USDA also provides average wages based on the type of farm that employs the laborer, though these statistics are for a slightly broader geographical region that also include Iowa and Missouri . The average hourly wage paid by farms primarily dedicated to field crops was $8.67, to other crops was $8.74 and to livestock or poultry was $9.47.

USDA also breaks out wages paid by the size of the employing farm; in general, larger farms pay more. For the eastern and western Corn Belt combined, the highest average hourly wage paid for all types of farm labor was $10.33, and it was provided by farms with sales greater than $1 million. Farms generating $50,000 to $100,000 in sales paid the lowest hourly wage in the region: $8.10.

National Hog Farmer Study of Industry Compensation Plans. The publication The National Hog Farmer teamed with researchers from Iowa State University and the University of Minnesota to conduct a detailed survey of compensation packages used in the US hog industry during 2005.

The data collected allowed the researchers to look at wage differences by job title, education level, region of the country, and experience. The survey also provides insight into the types of benefits and incentives offered to employees. The report also compares wage and benefit rates over time, which provides a view of how employment and compensation trends are emerging within this dynamic sector. For example, the average Midwest hog unit manager received an annual salary of $37,586 in 2005, while the average Midwest farrowing manager received $31, 821. Nationally, about 38 percent of employees were eligible for some type of bonus pay as part of their compensation package, with incentives paid for high rates of pigs weaned per sow per year being the most common target for incentives. Across the nation about 66% of employees in the hog sector report receiving some type of medical insurance as part of their compensation plan, 72% report paid vacation, while 54% report a retirement plan.

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