In almost every relationship, discussions about money can be very awkward. As we close out 2020, many farmers and landowners have begun discussion about farmland rental agreements and renewing leases. It is also a good time of the year to think about worker benefits and wages.
One of the easiest places to start thinking about how much to pay or charge is to find out the reported averages. 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, state, and regional averages.
The following is a summary of the information NASS provided for Northwest Florida from 2021 surveys. The rates reported were the annual rate per acre, these are not monthly rates.
Table 1 provides the average annual rate per acre for renting non-irrigated, dryland, or rain-fed crop land by county. The average rental rates in 2021 ranged from $24/acre to $102/acre, with an average of $59.50 for the nine counties NASS reported for.
Since there are not as many irrigated farms in the Panhandle, NASS only reported survey results from Jackson and Escambia counties, as well as by state and region in 2021. Table 2 shows that average irrigated land rental rates ranged from $135/acre to $245/acre depending on that area represented.
Pasture rental rates were also surveyed. Pasture lease rates are considerably lower than crop land, because livestock generate a much lower return per acre. Average pasture rental rates were reported from five counties in the Panhandle. The average rates ranged from $18.50/acre to $37.00/acre, with an average of $26.10/acre.
Average Farm Worker Wages
The other challenge that farmers and ranchers face is knowing what is a fair rate to pay their hired workers. In table 4 you can see the average wage rates for crop, animal, and all farm workers in Florida over the past three years.
The average rate paid to all farm workers was $13.30/hour in 2021. NASS also provides a summary by US region using the same categories.
They challenging part about comparing wages to actual workers on the farm is the different categories of workers that exist with differing levels of expertise. While NASS does not offer the wage rates by class for each state or region, the breakdown of the US average by worker class is helpful.