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Farm employee compensation during a pandemic

Dmytro Diedov/iStock/Getty Images Plus close-up of male farmer in rubber boots waling through cultivated agricultural field in the rays of the sun at sunset.
Few farm organizations surveyed made staffing changes; some increased hiring.

It’s been a whirlwind year for everyone, and agriculture is no different – maybe more so. We’ve been through great changes due to COVID-19. surveyed more than 80 agribusinesses for the 2020-2021 Agribusiness HR ReviewTM regarding the most critical components facing the industry during COVID-19 including workforce planning, benefits, and compensation practices. What did we discover?

Workforce Planning

Agriculture is a resilient industry, and it’s fair to say that we have to be after the many obstacles we continue to face year after year. While COVID-19 was a surprise, many agribusinesses stood firm: 81% did not make any staffing changes within their organizations due to COVID-19. In fact, 11% increased hiring of permanent employees.

The continued need for talent within the industry will likely not dissipate. More than half of agribusinesses (52%) reported that the size of their workforce would likely increase in the next two years. Furthermore, 44% of agribusinesses believed their workforce size would likely remain the same.


Encouragingly, most agribusinesses were able to remain consistent regarding salary increases for 2020 despite the pandemic. Approximately 70% of participating organizations have not made changes to their salary administration as a result of COVID-19. Also, nearly 30% had already implemented 2020 increases before the pandemic’s height. Another 43% still planned to award merit increases in salary before the year’s end.

The most common type of salary increase distributed was performance-based (91%). The average increase received by employees during the last 12 months was between 2.6% and 3.0% (40% reporting).

When we look ahead to 2021, agribusinesses continue to plan for increases. Only 17% of companies reported that it was NOT likely that salaries would increase. Like in 2020, the most reported budget for salary increases was between 2.6% and 3.0% (37%).

Wellness & Benefits Programs

While salaries are still generally expected to increase within agribusiness next year, the same cannot be said (based on this data) for benefits programs. Nearly 60% do not plan to make changes to wellness and benefits programs for the next plan year. The next most common planned changes included additional options to work from home (or flex schedules) and additional allowances to cover work from home expenses (phone, internet, etc.).

View the full “Compensation & the Ag Workforce During COVID-19” Special Report here.

Also check out’s U.S. Agribusiness Workforce Preparations for COVID-19 report for further insight.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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