Finding new recruits to work on the ranch

Potential employees need to see the opportunities available to them, and there are plenty, but there’s a disconnect to be bridged. Third in a series that looks at fixing the ag labor shortage.


Wes Ishmael, BEEF Magazine  

Oct 02, 2019


“We have 0.8 people available for every job that comes open in Kansas,” says Russell Plaschka, agribusiness development program manager for Workforce Development at the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA).


So, competition for employees is fierce across the board, but especially for agricultural employers.


Manual laborers are chasing the higher wages offered in industries like transportation, construction, hospitality and mining, forcing agriculture employers to increase wages at a faster rate to compete, according to a study from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division — “Help Wanted: Wage Inflation and Worker Scarcity.” The study explains how inflated wages result from scarce labor conditions.


“Wages have historically been higher in these other industries, compared to most farm labor,” explained Ben Laine, a senior economist with CoBank, when the study was released last year. “The difference now is that these jobs are much more widely available and are more in line with the background of workers coming from Mexico.”


In addition to immigration controls like tightening borders and increased immigration enforcement, birthrates in Mexico are falling, and populations are moving toward urban areas, according to CoBank. That leaves fewer people with agricultural backgrounds who would be interested in U.S. farm work.


Arguably, Kansas represents a bellwether state when it comes to the workforce challenges faced by agricultural employers in the heart of the nation’s beef cattle country.


Based on a five-year average, agriculture, food and food processing account for 42.3% of the total Kansas economy each year —  $63.8 billion in economic contribution — and 12.6% of the workforce (238,148 jobs) according to KDA. Beef cattle ranching and farming lead the way in terms of economic output.


In an effort to better understand the workforce needs of agricultural employers, KDA conducted its first Kansas Agriculture Workforce Needs Assessment Survey in 2016.


Agricultural mechanics (39%) and agricultural business (38%) represented 77% of agricultural job vacancies at the time.


Potential employees out there ...


Bridging the experience gap ...


Timing matters ...


more, including links



Labor Shortages Make H2A Visas A Priority


By RFD-TV News

Sep 30, 2019


As labor shortages plague the heartland, changes to the H-2A visa program becomes a high priority for Congress this fall. According to a recent study: the number of guest worker applications is up 11% in 2019.


Employers want a new program to be more efficient, raise the cap of the number of workers, and slower wage growth.


In 2016, 69% of farm workers were from Mexico, 25% in the U.S. or Puerto Rico, and 6% from Central America. Half were legally authorized workers. Ag sectors with the greatest labor needs include the tobacco, fruit, and vegetable sectors.


document, plus video report [0:40 min.]