The number of workers paid by Florida farmers and agricultural services totaled 63,000 for the week of April 8 through 14.

Farmers hired 55,000 in April 2007 compared with 44,000 in October 2006 and 52,000 in April 2006. Agricultural services provided 8,000 paid workers, equal to the number supplied in April 2006, but up 3,000 from the October 2006 number.

Early in the survey week, frost nipped some northern vegetables; strong winds at the end of the week damaged leaves of some taller vegetables while wind-borne sand bruised some fruit.

Potato digging was under way in the Palatka area and okra cutting started in Miami-Dade County.

Other non-citrus fruits and vegetables harvested during the week included snap beans, blueberries, cabbage, celery, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, escarole, lettuce, parsley, peppers, radishes, squash, strawberries, tomatoes and watermelons.

Vegetable harvests neared peak levels for the season during April.

Citrus harvest remained active during the survey week. Citrus grove caretakers hedged and topped trees, applied post bloom nutritional sprays, scouted for greening of trees and removed diseased trees.

The April combined Farmers and Agricultural Services all hired worker wage rate averaged $10.07 per hour, 60 cents more than the $9.47 paid in October 2006 and 83 cents more than last year’s wage of $9.24 per hour. Farmers paid an average of $10.01 per hour, 59 cents higher than the $9.42 paid in October 2006, and 82 cents above the $9.19 paid in April 2006.

Agricultural Services paid workers an average of $10.45 per hour, 55 cents more than the $9.90 paid in October 2006 and 85 cents more than the $9.60 paid in April 2006.

On a national basis, there were 961,000 hired workers on the Nation’s farms and ranches during the week of April 8-14, 2007, unchanged from a year ago.

A large increase in California was enough to offset the large declines in hired workers in most other regions, resulting in a net change of zero from last April.

Of these hired workers, 720,000 were hired directly by farm operators. Agricultural service employees on farms and ranches made up the remaining 241,000 workers.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $10.17 per hour during the April 2007 reference week, up 39 cents from a year earlier. Field workers received an average of $9.35 per hour, up 40 cents from last April, while livestock workers earned $9.55 per hour compared with $9.31 a year earlier.

The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $9.41 per hour, was up 35 cents from last year. The number of hours worked averaged 40.6 hours for hired workers during the survey week, down fractionally from a year ago.

The largest increases in the number of hired farm workers from last year occurred in California, Florida, and in the Northeast II (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) and Mountain I (Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming) regions.

In California, last year's reference week was plagued by rainfall and unseasonably cool temperatures, which delayed most field work. This year, a return to more normal weather patterns allowed cotton and rice planting to progress well ahead of average, increasing the demand for field workers.

Cold, wet conditions in the Northeast II region slowed most outdoor field activities. However, continued strong demand from nurseries, greenhouses, and dairies was more than enough to offset the reduced need for workers in most other agricultural sectors.

In the Mountain I region, dry, seasonable weather in Idaho offset below normal temperatures and damp conditions in the rest of the region, resulting in a collectively higher demand for hired workers.

Florida experienced abnormally dry conditions last April.

This year, soil moisture levels have increased, allowing more field work to be accomplished and causing more hired workers to be needed.

The largest decreases in the number of hired farm workers from a year ago were in the Appalachian I (North Carolina and Virginia), Appalachian II (Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia), Corn Belt II (Iowa and Missouri), Southern Plains (Oklahoma and Texas), and Northeast I (New England and New York) regions.

In the Appalachian I and II regions, hard freezes early in the reference week, along

with heavy rains later in the week, severely curtailed most field activities.