Some of the most challenging conversations, in almost any relationship, are the ones about money. This is certainly true as farmers and landowners negotiate lease agreements, or managers and workers negotiate wages for the year ahead. As with all statistics, just knowing the average is only part of the story, but at least it offers an unbiased reference point for both parties to begin those awkward conversations.
Farm Land Rental Rates
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistic Service (NASS) annually surveys farm owners/managers to provide average land rental rates. Unfortunately their survey summary does not offer the range of rates paid, but does offer county, and regional averages.
The following is a summary of the information NASS provided for Northwest Florida from 2020 surveys. Table 1 provides the average annual rate per acre for renting non-irrigated, dryland, or rainfed crop land by county. The average for the whole Panhandle region in 2020 was $62 per acre, per year. There was significant variation from county to county, with a high of $101/acre in Santa Rosa to a low of $37.50/acre in Okaloosa County. NASS no longer reports data for every individual county in the Panhandle, so data from counties not listed below were included in the “Other Counties” category.
Since there are not as many irrigated farms, NASS only reports their survey results for Jackson and “Other Counties,” and by region. Irrigated crop land is generally more productive and more consistent, so the lease rates are generally much higher per acre. Table 2 shows the variation in irrigated farm lease rates in the tri-states region, with an average of $204/acre for the Southeast in 2020. Notice however, the average rental rates were much lower in Southeast Alabama – $164/a, and Northwest Florida – $163/a, than in Southwest Georgia – $222/a.
Pasture Rental Rates
Pasture rental rates were also surveyed. Pasture lease rates are considerably lower than crop land, because livestock generate a much lower return per acre. Table 3 illustrates the range of the annual average pasture rent from $22/acre in Washington County to $42.50/acre in the Other Counties category. The average pasture rent for the entire Panhandle was $32/acre in 2020.
Farm Labor Wages
The other challenge that farmers and ranchers face is knowing what is a fair rate to pay their hired workers. In the chart above, USDA shows how farm worker wages have increased over the last 20 years across the US. You can see that in 2020, all hired labor reached the $15 range, while field and livestock workers wages moved up beyond $14 per hour.
Table 4 (right) provides some very wage rates in general categories for Florida farm workers. The average all worker and crop worker wages actually dropped slightly from 2019, but there was a small increase for animal workers.