New information released by the Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service pegs the number of hired workers on U.S. farms during the first quarter of 2006 at 718,000, a decrease of 3.75 percent from one year ago.    

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s economic analysis team, the new statistics provide evidence that the farm sector is facing a labor squeeze that will magnify further by the possible future loss of migrant workers.

 California has the most pronounced decline where agriculture is particularly dependent on hired labor, but it also included other key agricultural production areas, according to AFBF.

The NASS report shows that wages paid to farm employees increased sharply as the total number of workers dropped.

The national average wage paid to farm workers is at an all-time high, $9.79 per hour, according to the report. That rate is up nearly 5 percent from one year ago and up 18 percent from 2001. Wage increases for hired farm workers were reported in every region of the country where NASS collects data.

You can access the NASS report at

American Farm Bureau Federation