Farm Wages and Immigration: FarmLife FIVE

This issue: Wages and immigration.

By Richard Banks

Labor Costs: In the States, wages, salaries and contract labor expenses represent roughly 17% of total variable farm costs, and as much as 40% of costs in labor intensive crops such as fruits, vegetables and nursery products.

Source: USDA-ERS

Employment Decline: In 1921, agriculture employed approx. 1 million people in Canada; by 2008, that number had declined to about 327,000. The average number of hired farmworkers in the U.S. has also steadily declined over the last century, from roughly 3.4 million to just over 1 million.

Sources: Statistics Canada

Worker Shortfall: In Canada, a shortage of farm workers—by approx. 59,000 each year—is expected to cost farmers some $1.5 billion in lost cash receipts. Between 2002 and 2014, the number of full-time equivalent field and crop workers in the U.S. has dropped by more than 20% and reduced fruit and vegetable production revenue by some $3.1 billion per year.

Source: Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council; Partnership for a New American Economy


Undocumented: While the number of undocumented farm workers is believed to be negligible in Canada, the share of hired crop farmworkers who were not legally authorized to work in the U.S. grew from roughly 15% in 1989-91 to almost 55% in 1999-2001. Since then it has fluctuated around 50%.

Source: Statistics Canada; USDA-ERS

Country of Origin: The five most frequently reported places of birth for Canada’s immigrant farm population were the Netherlands, the U.K, the U.S., Germany and India. In the States, the share of hired crop farm workers born in the U.S. is 29%; 68% were born in Mexico.

Sources: Statistics Canada; USDA-ERS