New York’s Agriculture Industry: A Resilient Part of State and Local Economies

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August 2022

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The agriculture industry supports jobs and communities across New York State. According to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2021, agriculture in New York produced approximately $3.3 billion in gross domestic product and paid nearly $1 billion in wages according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the United States. Agriculture is particularly important to the economies of rural New York. The COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown led to job losses in almost every industry in New York, but the agricultural sector proved to be one of the most resilient, losing only 1% of jobs in 2020, compared to an 8.7% annual job loss statewide. . Employment and wages in the agricultural sector have increased in 2021 to reach new highs. Additionally, farms contribute to the food security of their communities, an important benefit in light of the disruptions to supply chains in the pandemic era.

Agriculture and state economy

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, milk is the state’s most important agricultural product, ranking fifth nationally in terms of sales in 2020. New York is also among the top producers of many other products, including other dairy products, apples, maple syrup, wine and grapes. , and about 9% of the state’s farm revenue came from animal feed crops in 2020.1 According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, there are more than 33,000 farms in the state.2 In addition, nearly 23 percent of the state’s total land area is under agricultural use.3 In some counties in the Finger Lakes, western New York and the southern part, agricultural land makes up more than 40% of the total land area.

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) provides information on agriculture, encompassing both crop and animal production. As shown in Figure 1, employment in animal production increased steadily in the years leading up to the pandemic and continued to grow through 2020 and 2021. In contrast, employment in crop production reached a high of 12,799 in 2018, then fell to 12,027 in 2020 before rebounding to 12,438 in 2021. Falling employment in crop production caused employment in crop and animal production to fall by 23 639 in 2019 to 23,391 in 2020, a decrease of 1%. However, employment growth in crop and animal production has pushed total agricultural employment to a new high of 23,868 in 2021.4

FIGURE 1: Employment on New York Farms


As shown in Figure 2, total wages paid by New York farms have also increased steadily in the run-up to and during the pandemic, although total wages paid in agricultural production have declined in 2020. , to rebound in 2021. On January 1, 2020, new state wage standards for agricultural workers took effect. These standards required overtime payment for hours worked in excess of 60 hours per week and one day off per week, and lowered the threshold at which farmers are required to provide unemployment insurance coverage to their workers. As employment grew, crop and animal production combined to provide $970.2 million in wages in New York State in 2021.

FIGURE 2: Total wages paid by New York farms


As shown in Figure 3, the average annual wage of agricultural workers has also increased steadily in the years leading up to and during the pandemic; however, these salaries remained relatively low. The QCEW defines “average annual salaryas the total annual salary divided by the average of 12 monthly employment levels. Wages include all monetary compensation, including bonuses, tips, and overtime payments, but exclude benefits such as health insurance or pension contributions. In 2021, the average annual salary in agricultural production in New York State was $38,143, or about 43% of the state average of $88,030 for all occupations reported by the QCEW. The average annual salary for animal production was $43,380, about 49 percent of the state average for all occupations.

FIGURE 3: Average annual earnings of agricultural employees


The Effect of Agriculture on New York’s Jobs, Workers, and Communities

Although the data presented here does not represent a complete picture of how New York farms are performing during the COVID-19 pandemic, data from the QCEW indicates that New York farms have been able to maintain production and continue to be sources of employment, with wage growth throughout the pandemic. This indicates the resilience of agriculture and the importance of agriculture in sustaining the New York State economy, even in times of difficulty.

In January 2022, as the sector continued to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic, the Department of Labor’s Farm Workers’ Wages Commission (Council) recommended that farm workers be paid overtime for: hours worked above more than 56 hours per week in 2024; hours worked greater than 52 hours in 2026; hours worked greater than 48 hours in 2028; hours worked greater than 44 hours in 2030; and hours worked beyond 40 hours in 2032. The Board is due to vote on a final report on this proposal on September 6, 2022. If approved, the Commissioner of the Department of Labor has 45 days to determine whether to approve, reject or modify Council action.

In recognition of the importance of agriculture to the state and to help address the challenges facing the industry, New York State’s latest enacted budget added several new programs to support farmers, including : increasing the investment tax credit for farmers; doubling the farm labor retention tax credit; and the creation of a new refundable overtime tax paid for hours worked between 40 and 60 hours per week, which would come into effect if the Farm Wage Council’s expanded overtime proposal is approved.5

Agriculture serves as an economic base that supports a large agricultural service industry and the manufacturing of food and other farm-based products, especially in rural New York communities. Agricultural products that are sold in the community where they are produced amplify the local impact of agriculture by keeping money flowing in the local economy rather than exporting those dollars for food produced elsewhere. And much of the income earned on farms recirculates back into the farming community, supporting a variety of businesses providing fuel, seeds, equipment and veterinary services, in addition to wages paid for labor. agricultural work and taxes paid to local governments.6 This makes agriculture a driver of local economies and government.

Farms also contribute to New York’s food security by producing some of the food New Yorkers need close to home. The disruption of national and global supply chains by the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the importance of local food production. Agriculture is vital to New York’s health and economy, making it important for the state to work to ensure this sector continues to thrive.


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