Free farm labor guide helps farmers hire and keep the right workers

Farm in Winter

Like farm machinery and methods, hiring farmworkers has changed in recent years, says University of Missouri Extension agricultural economist Ryan Milhollin.

MU Extension’s Missouri Farm Labor Guide can help. The guide, available for free download at extension.missouri.edu/p/M199, lets farmers know the right practices to identify, hire and retain the right workers. It explains ways to mentor workers to help them move into their new jobs.

Changing labor laws and government regulations make hiring more complex, Milhollin says. Like many business owners, farmers may lack knowledge about recruiting, hiring and keeping workers. Attention to this process can save a farm operation time and money.  Rules regarding farm labor differ in some respects from other occupations, says Milhollin. To ensure compliance, it is important to understand how these rules differ, he says.

Milhollin says the guide offers tips on how to find new employees. It tells how to write job descriptions that set clear expectations for employer and employee. It includes links to interview questions and farm job descriptions. The 46-page guide tells how to use background checks, reference check, and drug testing, and gives links to databases. It tells how to avoid legal pitfalls during interviews, employment and termination.

Record-keeping often is one of the biggest challenges for small agribusinesses and farmers, Milhollin says. The guide lists contact information for federal and state tax and labor agencies. It also gives rules on pay for employees and family members, overtime, exemptions, bonuses, and nonmonetary compensation.

Finally, an application for farm employment and an employer checklist are provided.

The North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and MU Extension fund the guide.