Farmers and ranchers in the Northern Plains hired fewer workers this year than in 2015, and paid them less this October during the key harvest period than they did a year earlier.
That's the news from a farm labor report issued on Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture ag statistics office in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The report said farmers and ranchers in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas hired 34,000 workers this summer, down 8 percent from the same week in 2015.
They kept the same number of workers the week of Oct. 9-15, this year; but that was 15 percent below the 40,000 they hired the same week in 2015.
Comparing July 2016 to July 2015, farmer labor earned more this year and livestock workers earned less, and worked fewer hours.
But the October wages fell this year from last year's figures, the Capital Journal reported.
It follows lower cattle and crop prices this year over 2015, for the most part.
USDA officials have said they expect net farm income to fall again this year for the second year in a row.
Cattle producers in the state said prices for the feeder calves coming off pastures this fall are about 50 percent of the record levels seen two years ago at sale barns.
USDA reported that farm operators in the Northern Plains Region paid their hired workers an average wage of $14.49 per hour during the July 2016 reference week, up 4 percent from the July 2015 reference week.
Field workers received an average of $15.17 per hour, up $1.51. Livestock workers earned $12.83 per hour, down 48 cents.
The field and livestock worker combined wage rate at $14.10, was up 60 cents from the 2015 reference week. Hired laborers worked an average of 44.0 hours during the July 2016 reference week, compared with 39.6 hours worked during the July 2015 reference week.
Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $14.56 per hour during the October 2016 reference week, down 1 percent from the October 2015 reference week.
Field workers received an average of $15.33 per hour, up 74 cents. Livestock workers earned $12.50 per hour, compared with $13.86 a year earlier.
The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at 14.15, was down 15 cents from the October 2015 reference week.
Hired laborers worked an average of 44.8 hours during the October 2016 reference week, compared with 41.0 hours worked during the October 2015 reference week.