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Corn+Soybean Digest

Farm help comes at price, as does work left undone

As the old saying goes, "You have to spend money to make money." And some farmers may want to adhere to this adage when it comes to spring planting and hiring extra labor to reap better rewards at harvest.

Craig Dobbins, Purdue University Extension agricultural economist, said producers should think now about lining up extra farm labor for the busy spring season. Farmers can look at their current production processes, the required demands of the spring months and the resources available to determine if extra help should be hired.

"Spring is a real crunch time for farmers, and delays in planting can cause yield reductions," Dobbins said. "Part-time labor in the spring months may help producers get the seed in the ground within a time frame that allows them to reap the best yields and with less stress."

Bringing a new person into the operation changes the dynamics on the farm, whether hiring a part-time or full-time employee. Dobbins said producers should ask themselves several questions if they are considering a new employee:

  • What are the new employee's job responsibilities?

  • Is there enough work to hire a full-time employee or is there only enough work for someone part-time?

  • How will the employee be compensated?

  • How does my job change?

  • Does the new employee need training or additional education?

  • What are the expectations of the new employee?

If farmers feel they can hire someone full time, they should consider more than just giving the person an hourly wage. Dobbins said producers hiring full-time labor compete with non-farm businesses and need to think about other benefits, such as vacation time and health insurance.

Dobbins also said that farmers must determine how much responsibility they want to give a new hire on the farm.

"Everyone would like an employee who can spot a problem and fix it before it becomes a major breakdown," Dobbins said. "But one must decide what authority the employee will have to fix a potential problem. If a part is needed for equipment, will the employee go buy it or will the employee consult the producer?"

There are several places producers can look for additional help. Dobbins said farmers can ask current employees if there are people they would recommend. Producers also can ask other farmers and high school agricultural science and business teachers for potential employees. Ads can be placed in the newspaper as well, but Dobbins said that producers may get several names to review and will not have a personal reference, like the other options.

"Producers must be careful about who they select for the job," Dobbins said. "Employees associated with the farm represent the business within the community. One may lose time finding the right person or training the new employee, but the extra time is worth having a good person working for you."

Several Web sites provide additional information about farm labor. They include:

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