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United States Department of Agriculture
National Agricultural Statistics Service

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  Farm Labor

The Farm Labor survey provides estimates of number of hired workers, average hours worked, and wage rates at regional and national levels. The survey is conducted in collaboration with the Department of Labor (DOL).

The target population for the establishment portion of the Farm Labor survey is all farms with value of sales of $1,000 or more.


Farm labor estimates are published semi-annually in May (includes January and April) and November (includes July and October).  EDD publishes labor statistics for California for the remaining months.  Annual average estimates for number of all hired workers, hours worker, and average wage rates by type of worker are published in the November Farm Labor report.  Quarterly regional estimates are made for number of workers, average hours worked, and average wage rates.

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Questions asked on the Farm Labor surveys include the number of paid workers, hours worked, and total wages by type of worker (field, livestock, supervisor/manager, and other) for a specified survey week.


Farm employment and wage statistics are used by federal, state, and local government agencies, educational institutions, farm organizations, and private sector employers of farm labor.  For example, agencies responsible for administering farm labor recruitment and placement programs use employment statistics in their planning and evaluation.  Federal determination of wage rates for foreign farm workers considers NASS wage data.  The wage rate index calculated from these data is a component of the Department of Agriculture’s Parity Index.

The H-2A Program is the provision under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) which allows admission of temporary non-immigrant alien farm workers to perform farm labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature in the United States.  To hire H-2A workers, the employer must apply to the Department of Labor for an H-2A labor certificate showing that: (1) there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed to perform labor or services involved in the petition; and (2) the employment of aliens in such labor or service will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of the workers in the United States similarly employed.

Farm Labor survey estimates are used jointly by the USDA and the DOL to estimate the demand for, and availability of, labor for seasonal agricultural service crops specified in the IRCA.



Farm labor statistics are estimated at four points each year.  Data are collected semi-annually in April and October.



A multiple frame sample design, with a combined sample of about 12,000, is used for the Farm Labor survey.  Operations in the area sample that are not on the labor list provide a measure of the incompleteness of the list frame.

The reference period is the week containing the 12th of the month in January, April, July, and October.  Data are collected by computer-assisted telephone interviews in NASS Data Collection Centers.  NASS and the California Employment Development Department (EDD) jointly estimate and publish farm labor statistics for the State of California.  Personal interviews are reserved for special classes of nonrespondents, some large operators, and other special cases.


Crosswalk from NASS Farm Labor Survey Occupations to the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC)


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Last modified: 05/31/13