Specialty crop farms have the highest labor cost as a portion of total cash expenses

Specialty crop farms have the highest labor cost as a portion of total cash expenses

A farm's reliance on farm labor varies by commodity specialization. On average, labor costs (including contract labor, hired labor, and worker benefits such as insurance) accounted for about 14 percent of the total farm cash expenses in 2020. Farms specializing in the production of specialty crops, which include fruits, tree nuts, vegetables, beans (pulses) and horticultural nursery crops, had the highest labor costs across farm types, with labor accounting for almost 40 percent of total cash expenses. In contrast, operations specializing in corn and soybeans spent the least on labor costs as a percentage of total cash farm expenses (4 percent and 3 percent, respectively) in 2020. Corn and soybean farms have lower farm labor expenses resulting from higher adoption rates of labor-saving innovations, such as technology, chemical herbicides, etc. This chart updates data found in the Economic Research Service report Farm Size and the Organization of U.S. Crop Farming, published in August 2013.


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