A summer worker and an agronomist manually apply corn gluten meal (the yellow substance) for organic weed control tests in Lane, Oklahoma. (Photo by the Agricultural Research Service)

In August, the USDA’s Economic Research Service released forecasts indicating that overall cash labor expenditures within the U.S. agricultural sector are projected to reach $43.35 billion by the end of 2023.

This figure represents a 1.84% (equivalent to $780 million) increase from the previous year when adjusted for inflation to 2023 dollars. 

Labor expenses are an essential factor in agricultural production costs. According to USDA, from every $100 spent on production expenses, nearly $10 goes to labor, which excludes non-cash employee compensation.

The USDA report points out that the animal production sector uses less hired labor in comparison to other subsectors of agriculture. While hired labor comprises two-thirds of total labor expenses for crop production, it constitutes only one-third for the animal production sector.

Crops such as fruits, vegetables and melons are more labor-intensive. 

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Mónica Cordero is a Report for America corps member and part of the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk team. Her expertise includes data analysis with Python and SQL, and reporting under the...