Future of Colorado Agriculture

What are the critical trends in Colorado's food, fiber and green production? Will labor, water or cash be the factor that limits agriculture’s success in the next few years? What role do rural communities play in agriculture's future?

Colorado State University is spearheading an effort to discuss, define and consider the potential paths that Agriculture may take in the next generation. We need your help to highlight the important issues and offer your vision of what lies ahead. Extension specialists with the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics will facilitate the discussion both out in the state and on the internet.

Agricultural sectors are listed on the right-hand side of this web page. Take a look at the agricultural sectors and their respective issues, read the opinion of others, and post your own comments. You can also email comments and suggestions for discussions to futureofcoloradoag@gmail.com .

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Importance of Agricultural Workers

For the US, labor is the agricultural sector’s third largest production expense (considering all cash and noncash expenses) trailing only feed and capital depreciation. For 2008, wages paid to hired farmworkers are forecast to be $27.3 billion, and the share of workers classified as hired has increased significantly.

After declining for decades, labor’s share of US farm expenses began increasing in the mid-1980s. Growers who specialize in vegetable, fruit, tree nut, or horticultural production, for whom labor costs total 30-40 percent of cash expenses, are especially sensitive to fluctuations in the cost and availability of labor, and are likely the largest employees of hired workers.

The first figure above shows that the US and Colorado have followed a fairly similar trajectory, but Colorado’s expenditures have increased more rapidly than the national average in more recent years. These trends can be disaggregated in several ways to provide more information about the dynamics of labor usage.

The number of workers (Figure 2 above) have seen significant variability in the prime growing season, fluctuating between 13,000 and 20,000 workers, with no clear pattern between the number employed more continuously (over 150 days in a year) and those hired for shorter terms. No year-round numbers are available, but July should represent a typical month without peak employment (like planting or harvest) and with some demand for seasonal work.

These trends lead to some questions: Are Colorado producers…
  • Demanding fewer workers while paying more for those selected?

  • Diversifying and adapting their production systems to use workers over a longer period of employment?

  • Facing shortages that impact their ability to produce, harvest or choose specific crops?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that Colorado producers are still going to have fewer workers but pay them more because that is the trend and I don't think it's going to change any time soon because the weather has been about the same for the past couple of years. And with the state of the economy, I don't think that producers are looking to hire any one new. I think that producers are going to have to change some ways to produce what they want to get.