Farm Labor

Farm Labor Survey

The Farm Labor Survey provides the basis for employment and wage estimates for all workers directly hired by U.S. farms and ranches (excluding Alaska) for each of four quarterly reference weeks. The quarterly estimates, in turn, provide the basis for annual average estimates. The National Agricultural Statistics Service publishes quarterly and annual estimates for the United States as a whole, each of 15 multi-state labor regions, and the single-state regions of California, Florida, and Hawaii. NASS conducts the Farm Labor Survey in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The target population includes all farms with $1,000 or more in annual sales value.

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Program Content

The Farm Labor Survey collects data on the number of hired workers, hours worked, and total wages by type of worker for each quarterly reference week. Since 2014, the survey collects data for field workers, livestock workers, and supervisors/managers by occupational groups based on the relevant “detailed occupation” categories of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ applicable Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. The survey collects data for other workers by selected SOC-based occupational groups (with most workers falling into a residual “other worker” group). Prior to 2014, the survey collected data according to the FLS aggregate categories of field workers, livestock workers, supervisors/managers, and other workers.


The employment and wage estimates published in the Farm Labor report are used by federal, state, and local government agencies; educational institutions; farm organizations; and private sector employers of farm labor. Some examples:

  • U.S. Department of Labor – The annual weighted average hourly wage rate for field and livestock workers combined is currently used as the Adverse Effect Wage Rate in administration of the H-2A Program. The H-2A Program is the provision under the Immigration Reform and Control Act that allows admission of temporary non-immigrant alien farm workers to perform farm labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature.
  • USDA – The wage rate data are used to compute a wage rate index, a component of the Parity Index used to compute parity prices of agricultural products. Parity prices are computed as a provision of the Agricultural Adjustment Act as amended.

Data for January and April are collected in April, and data for July and October are collected in October, in all states except California, which collects labor data monthly as part of a state program.


The Farm Labor Survey utilizes a dual frame sample design, including both list frame and area frame components, to ensure coverage of the target population. Beginning in year 2019, the combined sample size of approximately 13,000 units was increased to approximately 35,000 units, in order to support program expansion.

Data are collected primarily by mail and computer-assisted telephone interviews from NASS Data Collection Centers for all states except California. Where necessary, procedures were amended to accommodate year 2020 social distancing recommendations.

In California, NASS conducts data collection in cooperation with the California Employment Development Department (EDD), which collects labor data monthly using EDD-specific instruments and follow-up procedures similar to NASS procedures. California EDD publishes monthly state farm labor estimates.

For more information, see the “Farm Labor Methodology and Quality Measures” publications.

Linking the Farm Labor Survey to the 2018 Standard Occupational Classification System

Federal statistical agencies use the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system to classify workers into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating, or disseminating data. The Farm Labor Survey (FLS) to SOC Crosswalk defines the FLS worker groups in terms of SOC worker categories.

  • The Crosswalk assigns relevant SOC detailed occupations and major groups to the broader FLS categories (field workers, livestock workers, supervisors/managers, and other workers). Most SOC detailed occupations, and all SOC major groups, included in the FLS other workers category are provided for informational purposes; they are not used in data collection.
  • The term “part” on the Crosswalk is used where only a portion of the listed SOC occupation applies to the FLS occupation. In these cases, an FLS subdivision is listed and defined.
Related Programs

June Area

Last Modified: 12/10/2020