Farm Progress

Driven by downturn, machinery brands announce layoffs

John Deere and CNH Industrial to lay off hundreds from U.S. manufacturing facilities.

Andy Castillo

June 22, 2024

5 Min Read
The John Deere Des Moines Works manufacturing plant in Ankeny, Iowa
IOWA MANUFACTURING PLANT: The John Deere Des Moines Works manufacturing plant in Ankeny, Iowa, is among those affected by recent layoffs. Photos by Lance Cheung/USDA

With 2024 net farm income expected to drop by 25%, the agricultural machinery and equipment industry is tightening its belt. Major equipment brands including John Deere, CNH Industrial and AGCO have reported 10%-plus year-over-year revenue declines in quarterly earnings reports. At least in part because of low revenue, layoffs have been announced at manufacturing plants across the Midwest.

“We are proactively managing our production and inventory levels to adapt to demand changes and position the business for the future,” John C. May, John Deere’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement about the company’s most recent earnings report. “Despite market conditions, we are committed to our strategy and are actively investing in and deploying innovative technologies, products and solutions to ensure our customers' success.”

Deere & Co., which employs more than 80,000 globally, disclosed in a May 31 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it planned “to reduce its production and salaried workforce to help the company meet its strategic priorities while reducing overlap and redundancy in roles and responsibilities. It is anticipated that the activities related to salaried employees will occur during the third quarter of fiscal year 2024.”

In a mid-May investors call, Josh Beal, the machinery brand’s investor relations director, said “planned underproduction” was a strategic response to falling corn, wheat and soybean prices. The company projects that it’ll earn 26% less year-over-year.


Over the past several months, Illinois-based Deere & Co. has laid off hundreds of employees from its Iowa manufacturing facilities (at least 120 in Ankeny, about 60 in Urbandale and almost 550 in Waterloo), according to public Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notices. The company recently internally announced another 120 layoffs from its Moline, Ill., seeding and cylinder facility.

The Bridgestone-Firestone tractor tire plant in Des Moines has likewise downsized by about 100 laborers due to declining agricultural equipment demand. AGCO also laid off a number of employees in May from its Hesston, Kan., manufacturing plant. And at the end of last year, CNH reduced the size of its senior leadership team and trimmed its salaried workforce by 5%. AGCO also is expected to cut production by 10%.

The layoffs might not all be related to the current economic downturn. Longer term, Deere & Co. intends to move skid steer loaders and compact truck loaders manufacturing from its Dubuque, Iowa, facility to Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, by 2026. Deere previously announced in 2022 plans to move cab production from its Waterloo facility to Mexico by 2024. At the time, the brand estimated the move would impact about 250 employees, citing a need to "balance workforce needs within the tight labor market.”

Notably, 10,000 John Deere employees and United Auto Workers members went on strike for several months after rejecting a new contract three years ago. Strikers accepted the third proposed six-year contract, ending the strike Nov. 17, 2021. It was the first John Deere strike in three decades.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack met with the men and women of United Auto Workers Local 450 while they were on strike at the John Deere Des Moines Works manufacturing plant in Ankeny, Iowa, on Oct. 20, 2021

Outsourcing labor

Deere & Co. isn’t the only brand outsourcing labor to Mexico. A recent letter written by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., highlighted the anticipated layoff of more than 200 CNH Industrial employees from its Racine, Wis., manufacturing facility. Baldwin cited a decision by the U.K.-based machinery brand to move production to Mexico as the reason for the lost jobs.

AGCO also is reportedly moving some of its Hesston production of balers and rotary mowers to a Querétaro, Mexico, facility next year. And in June, Doosan Bobcat announced that it broke ground on a $300 million, 700,000-square-foot facility outside of Monterrey, Mexico. It’s expected to be operational by 2026.

Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, the nation's farm machinery and equipment businesses sell about $24 billion worth of equipment each year, with a $3 billion annual payroll. 

Meanwhile, CNH Industrial's leadership shake-up continues following the announced departure of CEO Scott Wine, who will be replaced by former Iveco Group CEO Gerrit Marx. Derek Neilson, president of agriculture, is the latest executive "to leave the company later this year to pursue a new entrepreneurial project outside of the sector, after 25 years of dedicated service," according to a company statement.

Long-term view

While the farm machinery industry might be pulling back for now, its bottom line is expected to expand in the coming years. The global harvester market, for example, is projected to grow by $25.3 billion, or about 8%, annually through 2028, according to a May report from Technavio, a market research and advisory firm.

Current and expected labor shortage is the primary driver. Without enough workers, the industry is becoming more mechanized and autonomous. Concurrently, American farms are consolidating and becoming more corporate.

“The increasing farm size in the country is leading to a drop in the number of farms in the United States,” according to an analysis from Mordor Intelligence, a market research firm. “According to USDA, there were 2.02 million farms in 2020, which has decreased to 2.01 million farms in 2021 due to productivity in agriculture and increased nonfarm employment opportunities. Almost 50% of the farms in the country are family-operated farms.”

About the Author(s)

Andy Castillo

Andy Castillo started his career in journalism about a decade ago as a television news cameraperson and producer before transitioning to a regional newspaper covering western Massachusetts, where he wrote about local farming.

Between military deployments with the Air Force and the news, he earned an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Bay Path University, building on the English degree he earned from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He's a multifaceted journalist with a diverse skill set, having previously worked as an EMT and firefighter, a nightclub photographer, caricaturist, features editor at the Greenfield Recorder and a writer for GoNomad Travel. 

Castillo splits his time between the open road and western Massachusetts with his wife, Brianna, a travel nurse who specializes in pediatric oncology, and their rescue pup, Rio. When not attending farm shows, Castillo enjoys playing music, snowboarding, writing, cooking and restoring their 1920 craftsman bungalow.

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