The Harvest ~ La Cosecha : a documentary

Claim 5: The average farmworker makes $17,000 or less a year.

December 3, 2014 · 833 Comments

General Bureau of Labor Statistics Data: not specific enough!

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a good measure of farmworker labor, but of course cannot account for undocumented labor. According to the Bureau’s summary of agricultural labor, the 2012 median pay for farmworkers was $18,910 per year. That means that “half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.” But the claim made by The Harvest documentary was about average, which can vary slightly from the median measure. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data was also collected from farming, fishing, and forestry. 

However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a comparison that contextualizes the two statements, showing that they are each about half of what the median annual wage was in 2012 for all workers, regardless of industry: $34,750 per year.

To get down to the dirty details…

An analysis on specifically cropworkers provides a different story. According to a report that published data from National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS), U.S. Department of Labor (different from the Bureau of Labor Statistics),

“Annually, the average income of crop workers is between $10,000 to $12,499 for individuals and $15,000 to $17,499 for a family.”

If the makers of The Harvest had used that statistic, they could have distinguished between individual and family income to get an even lower, more impressive figure. The whole purpose of presenting this figure to the public is to help people understand the minuscule proportion of the revenues that workers take home, as compared to the profits generated by the industry. See the following graph for a visual:

This pie chart shows the share that tobacco industry pickers take of total revenues. This is most likely due to the low wages of crop pickers.

This pie chart shows the share that tobacco industry pickers take of total revenues. This is most likely due to the low wages of crop pickers.

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