Continuing our series on agriculture, the U.S. is the world’s leading exporter of food and other agricultural products. However, while agriculture’s role in the U.S. economy remains significant, the industry’s future faces many challenges. As we have stated before, farms alone account for less than 1% of U.S. GDP today, compared to more than 3% in the early 1960’s. There has also been a significant change in the labor force required for agricultural product and the average pay these jobs earn.
One of the major reasons for the jobs decline in agriculture is mechanical innovations that have reduced the need for manual labor. Furthermore, in the late 1950s, the U.S. economy had more than 8 million workers supporting agriculture. Today, agricultural-related employment hovers around 2.3 million. Simultaneously, other sectors of the economy have grown, offering new and more appealing opportunities in different fields and professions. Working conditions for agricultural workers are also some of the most difficult and hazardous of any profession, and these workers face some of the lowest wages of any profession in the U.S. According to BLS data, the median pay for farming, fishing, and forestry occupations is less than $30,000 per year, or about 30% below the median of $41,950 across all occupations.
In Virginia, agricultural workers, which include farming, fishing, and forestry occupations, earn a median, cost-of-living-adjusted $32,883 per year, topping the nationwide median of $29,670.
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Commodity.com’s website: https://commodity.com/blog/agricultural-wages/