Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jessica A. Chittenden

November 09, 2007

Agriculture Department to Conduct Farm Labor Survey

Gathering Details on Workers, Wages & Issues Facing Agriculture in New York

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today announced the Department will be conducting a survey that will focus on current labor issues facing agriculture in New York. The questionnaire is currently being mailed to 3,700 fruit, vegetable and livestock producers throughout New York State.

"There’s no greater issue facing agriculture right now than labor," the Commissioner said, "and unfortunately, we don’t have numbers to show the actual impact this issue has or will have on the agricultural industry in New York State. Therefore, we are taking this opportunity to collect comprehensive information on the true challenges and concerns facing farmers in regards to their workforce, hoping to set the stage for an improved and greatly needed guestworker program at the federal level."

The labor survey will ask producers for the number of paid and family workers used during 2007, how many were Hispanic and wages paid. The survey will also try to quantify how important several of the many current immigration issues are to farm businesses and measure the level of concern to New York producers.

Steve Ropel, Director of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, New York Field Office, said, "This survey will gather important information on labor issues that will help policy makers and business leaders make educated decisions when it comes to immigration policy."

Nearly 1,400 questionnaires were mailed with year-end fruit and vegetable production surveys by the New York field office of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and they will follow them up with phone interviews. Roughly 1,600 milk and cattle producers will receive a questionnaire in late December. All responses will remain confidential.

This survey was initiated by the Cornell University Department of Applied Economics and Management, who posed the questions to ask, will summarize the results and provide a final report sometime early next year.

New York State is home to more than 35,000 farms that produce dairy products, apples, grapes, honey, wines and other fruits and vegetables which contribute nearly $4 billion annually to the state’s economy. Many farmers rely on migrant workers who return each year to harvest New York’s diverse agricultural bounty.

A study commissioned by the Farm Credit Associations of New York earlier this year conservatively estimated that if the migrant workforce was lost, New York State could lose approximately 900 farms, $195 million in production value and over 200,000 acres of land in agricultural production over the next two years.

2007 Press Releases