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Corn+Soybean Digest

Why Use Independent Contractors?

In monitoring the top guns in production agriculture, it's been my observation they are so good they can get all the money they need, all the land they need and all the equipment they need. However, getting the right people in the right place at the right time, doing the right things with the right set of skills is becoming increasingly difficult.

If at times you feel like you're trying to “push a log chain” when attracting, training and keeping top-quality people, you might research the possibilities of contract labor.

We have used it successfully in three of our businesses for over 10 years and feel the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. All Russell Consulting Associates are independent contractors, including my nephew who manages our pork production facilities.

There are definite criteria that must be met in order to qualify as an independent contractor.

Independent contractors are often described as people engaged in occupations who contract to perform work according to their own methods, without being subject to control of the employer except for the result.

The basic tenet of an independent contractor relationship is that the contractor has an independent occupation and is only responsible for the finished product.

These Factors are guides to the primary question of whether a worker is in fact independent, or subject to the control of the employer:

  • The extent of control that the employer may exercise over the details of the work.

  • Whether the person employed is engaged in a distinct occupation or business.

  • The kind of work to be performed, compared to whether the work is usually done under the direction of the employer or by a specialist without supervision.

  • The skill required for the work.

  • Whether the employer supplies the instrumentalities, tools and location for the person doing the work.

  • The length of time the person is employed.

  • The method of payment ? hourly or by the job.

  • Whether the work is a regular part of the employer's business.

  • The intent of the parties.

  • The opportunity for profit or loss.

  • Whether the employer is in a distinct business.

Checking with a labor law attorney is a good practice to assure you meet the National Labor Relations Acts and the Fair Labor Relations Act criteria and expectations for independent contractor status.


One of the benefits of contract labor we have identified is independent contractors generally have entrepreneurial characteristics. They are goal-oriented and many times have written goals.

Second, they are risk takers. Not taking undue risk, but more like a mountain climber who takes calculated risks and uses tools and techniques to manage the risk.

Third, they are accountable to themselves. When things go wrong, entrepreneurs look in the mirror for the problem rather than looking to blame someone.

Last, they are innovators. Each day when they wake, they ask, “How can I do more with less, thereby being more productive and innovative?”

Try a contract labor relationship and see how it works for you. It may prove to be a riskwise decision.

Moe Russell is president of Russell Consulting Group, Panora, IA. Russell provides risk management advice to clients in 34 states and Canada. For more risk management tips, check his Web site ( or call toll-free 877-333-6135.

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