Farmworker wages rose slightly during the last year and farm operators hired more people, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s annual Farm Labor Report.
The results are good news for both domestic and H2A workers. The report’s average wage estimates are used as the basis for determining the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), which is a regional minimum wage for H2A workers that is reset each year. Employers who use H2A workers are required to pay AEWR or the state or federal minimum wage, depending on which is higher.
The model is designed to protect the wages of domestic workers and pay H2A workers fairly.
Farm operators also hired more employees compared to last year, according to the report published at the end of November.
There were 785,000 workers employed directly by farms and ranches during the report’s reference week in October, up 2% from the same week last year.
Farm workers wages
Average gross wages in agriculture rose 7% in 2022, to $17.56 per hour.
Field workers earned an average gross rate of $16.77 per hour, up 6% compared to 2021. Livestock workers earned an average of $16.29 per hour.
Oregon and Washington, classified as the Pacific region, employed the second largest number of farmworkers in the country, second to California, according to the report. There were 86,000 farmworkers employed on farms and ranches in the Pacific region during the October reference week. Most worked 150 days or more on the same farm or ranch.
Pacific states also paid the second-highest wages, behind California. Oregon and Washington farmworkers earned an average of $18.28 per hour during the October reference week.
During harvest seasons, usually summer and fall in the Pacific Northwest, many employers pay per piece rather than per hour. The expectation is that workers earn more during peak harvests.
But wages hovered around $18 per hour in the Pacific region during every month surveyed. The lowest wages recorded were in April, when Pacific-area farmworkers earned an average of $17.27. Most crop farmworkers in Oregon are tilling, planting, and preparing fields in the springtime.
The report data are based on responses from roughly 18,000 farm and ranch operators surveyed by the USDA during specific weeks of the year.
Contract labor, which employs thousands of farmworkers in Oregon, is excluded from the survey. The Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data includes farm labor contract employees. According to its most recent data, the average hourly wage of Oregon farmworkers, including contract laborers, is around $15 per hour.
Shannon Sollitt covers agricultural workers through Report for Americaa program that aims to support local journalism and democracy by reporting on under-covered issues and communities.