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Farm wages on the rise

Despite working on average a little less than half the year, the number of ag workers in Washington state is up, as is their average salary.

That’s according to the agricultural workforce report issued recently by the state’s Employment Security Department.

The figures show agricultural employment in Washington rose from 81,573 workers in 2011 to 87,249 in 2012.

In addition, during 2012 workers in all ag industries earned an average of $14.14 per hour. State figures show that wheat and potato workers are earning the highest average hourly rate, with apple workers the lowest.

The Employment Security Department’s numbers show that agricultural workers averaged 997 hours per year, or about 5.8 months.

The increases reflect growth in the overall value of agricultural production in Washington state.

The department’s report indicates the total value of ag production in this state for 2011 reached a record of $9.2 billion, not including government transfer payments.

Growth in the ag industry provides other benefits, the department notes, as it estimates that for every two agricultural jobs there is one additional job created in the state’s economy.

Speaking of jobs in the ag sector, the Employment Security Department’s report notes shortages of seasonal workers for thinning and harvest jobs were reported by growers in 2011 and 2012.

That shortage, it adds, is also indicated in the increase in average wages for ag workers.

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