Survey of New York Fruit and Vegetable Farm Employers 2009
Maloney, Thomas R.; Bills, Nelson L.
The purpose of this study is to gather information from fruit, vegetable and dairy farm employers regarding agricultural workforce issues in New York agriculture. The survey provides new insights into five key topic areas; the number of workers on New York farms, employee wages and benefits, characteristics of the Hispanic workforce, attitudes among farm operators regarding proposed State labor law changes and Federal immigration reform. Expanded survey estimates of the peak agricultural workforce in this study, including part-time and full-time workers, totaled 33,200. The focus of this report is on the fruit and vegetable industry where the number of hired employees in the fruit industry is estimated to be 14,700 and the number of hired employees in the vegetable industry is estimated to be 8,900. Fruit farm employers reported that experienced general laborers were paid an average of $10.65 per hour and inexperienced general laborers were paid an average of $8.52. Vegetable farm employers reported that experienced general laborers were paid an average of $9.98 per hour and inexperienced general laborers were paid $8.25 per hour. Hispanic workers play an increasingly important role in the New York fruit and vegetable industry. The survey found that 11,200 (47%) fruit and vegetable workers speak Spanish as their first language. Regarding their Hispanic workers, farm employers reported that the two issues requiring the most assistance were immigration issues and English training. At the time the survey was conducted, New York’s labor advocates and farm employers were debating legislation that would have required farm employers to provide their workers overtime pay and collective bargaining rights. The majority of fruit and vegetable farmers surveyed indicated that they would be very concerned if their workers were allowed to form unions or if they were required to pay overtime. Regarding Federal immigration reform, survey participants were asked to rate the importance of national immigration reform, a path to citizenship and a guest worker program to their business. While all three issues were important to farm managers, a path to citizenship was reported to be slightly less important than national immigration reform or a guest worker program.
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University