Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

Summary

farmers ranchers and other agricultural managers image
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers operate establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products.
Quick Facts: Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers
2015 Median Pay $64,170 per year
$30.85 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation 5 years or more
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 929,800
Job Outlook, 2014-24 -2% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2014-24 -18,100

What Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers Do

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers operate establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products.

Work Environment

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers held about 929,800 jobs in 2014. About 7 in 10 were self-employed.

How to Become a Farmer, Rancher, or Other Agricultural Manager

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers usually have at least a high school diploma and typically gain skills through work experience.

Pay

The median annual wage for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers was $64,170 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers is projected to decline 2 percent from 2014 to 2024. The continuing ability of the agricultural sector to produce more with fewer workers will result in less demand for farmers and ranchers.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers Do About this section

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
Some farmers work primarily with crops and vegetables, whereas other farmers and ranchers handle livestock.

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers operate establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products. 

Duties

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers typically do the following:

  • Supervise all steps of the crop production and ranging process, including planting, fertilizing, harvesting, and herding
  • Determine how to raise crops or livestock by evaluating factors such as market conditions, disease, soil conditions, and the availability of federal programs
  • Select and purchase supplies, such as seed, fertilizers, and farm machinery
  • Ensure that farm machinery is maintained and repaired
  • Adapt their duties to the seasons, weather conditions, or a crop’s growing cycle
  • Maintain farm facilities, such as water pipes, hoses, fences, and animal shelters
  • Serve as the sales agent for livestock, crops, and dairy products
  • Record financial, tax, production, and employee information

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers produce enough crops and livestock to meet the needs of the United States and still have more left over for export.

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers monitor the constantly changing prices for their products. They use different strategies to protect themselves from unpredictable changes in the markets. For example, farmers carefully plan the combination of crops that they grow, so if the price of one crop drops, they will have enough income from another crop to make up for the loss. Farmers and ranchers also track disease and weather conditions closely, because disease and bad weather may have a negative impact on crop yields or animal health. When farmers and ranchers plan ahead, they may be able to store their crops or keep their livestock to take advantage of higher prices later in the year.

Most farm output goes to food-processing companies. However, some farmers now choose to sell their goods directly to consumers through farmer’s markets or use cooperatives to reduce their financial risk and to gain a larger share of the final price of their goods. In community-supported agriculture (CSA), cooperatives sell shares of a harvest to consumers before the planting season in order to ensure a market for the farm’s produce.

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers also negotiate with banks and other credit lenders to get financing, because they must buy seed, livestock, and equipment before they have products to sell.

Farmers and ranchers own and operate mainly family-owned farms. They also may lease land from a landowner and operate it as a working farm.

The size of the farm or range determines which tasks farmers and ranchers handle. Those who operate small farms or ranges usually do all tasks, including harvesting and inspecting the land, growing crops, and raising animals. In addition, they keep records, service machinery, and maintain buildings.

By contrast, farmers and ranchers who operate large farms have employees—including agricultural workers—who help with physical work. Some employees of large farms are in nonfarm occupations, working as truck drivers, sales representatives, bookkeepers, or information technology specialists.

Farmers and ranchers track technological improvements in animal breeding and seeds, choosing new products that might increase output. Many livestock and dairy farmers monitor and attend to the health of their herds, tasks that may include assisting in births.

Agricultural managers take care of the day-to-day operation of one or more farms, ranches, nurseries, timber tracts, greenhouses, and other agricultural establishments for corporations, farmers, and owners who do not live and work on their farm or ranch.     

Agricultural managers usually do not do production activities themselves. Instead, they hire and supervise farm and livestock workers to do most daily production tasks.

Managers may determine budgets. They may decide how to store and transport crops. They oversee the proper maintenance of equipment and property.

The following are examples of types of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers:

Crop farmers and managers—those who grow grain, fruits and vegetables, and other crops—are responsible for all steps of plant growth. After a harvest, they make sure that the crops are properly packaged and stored.

Livestock, dairy, and poultry farmers, ranchers, and managers feed and care for animals. They keep livestock in barns, pens, and other farm buildings. These workers also oversee the breeding and marketing of the animals in their care.

Horticultural specialty farmers and managers oversee the production of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and plants (including turf) used for landscaping. They also grow grapes, berries, and nuts used in making wine.

Aquaculture farmers and managers raise fish and shellfish in ponds, floating net pens, raceways, and recirculating systems. They stock, feed, protect, and maintain aquatic life used for food and for recreational fishing.

Work Environment About this section

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers typically work outdoors, but they may spend some time in offices.

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers held about 929,800 jobs in 2014. About 7 in 10 were self-employed. The rest were wage and salary workers.

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers typically work outdoors and may spend some time in offices. They sometimes do strenuous physical work.

Some farmers work primarily with crops and vegetables. Other farmers and ranchers handle livestock.

Injuries and Illnesses

The work environment for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers can be hazardous. Tractors, tools, and other farm machinery can cause serious injury, so workers must be alert on the job. They must operate equipment and handle chemicals properly to avoid accidents and safeguard the surrounding environment.

Work Schedules

Most farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers work full time. Farm work can be seasonal and the number of hours worked may change according to the season. Farmers and farm managers on crop farms usually work from sunrise to sunset during the planting and harvesting seasons. During the rest of the year, they plan the next season’s crops, market their output, and repair and maintain machinery. About one-third worked more than 40 hours per week in 2014.

On livestock-producing farms and ranches, work goes on throughout the year. Animals must be fed and cared for every day. 

On very large farms, farmers and farm managers spend time meeting with farm supervisors. Managers who oversee several farms may divide their time between traveling to meet farmers and landowners and staying in their offices to plan farm operations.

How to Become a Farmer, Rancher, or Other Agricultural Manager About this section

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
Farmers and ranchers that care for animals keep livestock in pens, barns, and other farm buildings.

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers usually have at least a high school diploma and typically gain skills through work experience.

Education

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers usually have at least a have a high school diploma. As farm and land management has grown more complex and costly, farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers have increasingly needed postsecondary education, such as an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in agriculture or a related field.

There are a number of government programs that help new farmers get education in farming. All state university systems have at least one land-grant college or university with a school of agriculture. Common programs of study include business (with a concentration in agriculture), plant breeding, farm management, agronomy, dairy science, and agricultural economics.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Prospective farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers typically work and gain experience under more experienced farmers. Some of them may grow up on a family farm and learn that way. The amount of experience that is needed varies with the complexity of the work and the size of the farm. Those with postsecondary education in agriculture may not need previous work experience. Universities and various forms of government assistance give prospective farmers alternatives to working on a farm or growing up on one.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers must monitor and assess the quality of their land or livestock. These tasks require precision and accuracy.

Critical-thinking skills. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers make tough decisions through sound reasoning and judgment. They determine how to improve their harvest and livestock, all the while reacting appropriately to external factors.

Interpersonal skills. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers supervise laborers and other workers, so effective communication is critical.

Mechanical skills. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers must be able to operate complex machinery and occasionally perform routine maintenance.

Physical strength. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers—particularly those who work on small farms—must be able to perform physically strenuous, repetitive tasks, such as lifting heavy objects and bending at the waist.

Training

Those without postsecondary education take a longer time to learn the more complex aspects of farming. A small number of farms offer apprenticeships to help young people learn the practical skills of farming and ranching. Government projects, such as the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, provide a way for people without any farm training to be paired with experienced farmers, learning through internships or apprentice programs.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

To show competency in farm management, agricultural managers may choose to become certified. The American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA) offers the Accredited Farm Manager accreditation to ASFMRA members who have 4 years of work experience and a bachelor’s degree. A complete list of requirements, including consultant course work and exams, is available from ASFMRA.

Pay About this section

Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Other management occupations

$85,880

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers

$64,170

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers was $64,170 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,110, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $113,140.

Incomes of farmers and ranchers vary from year to year because prices of farm products fluctuate with weather conditions and other factors. In addition to earning income from their farm business, farmers can receive government subsidies or other payments that add to their income and reduce some of the risk of farming.

Also, more farmers, especially operators of small farms, are relying more on off-farm sources of income, such as community supported agriculture (CSA) programs.

Most farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers work full time. Farm work can be seasonal and the number of hours worked may change according to the season. Farmers and farm managers on crop farms usually work from sunrise to sunset during the planting and harvesting seasons. During the rest of the year, they plan the next season’s crops, market their output, and repair and maintain machinery. About one-third worked more than 40 hours per week in 2014.

On livestock-producing farms and ranches, work goes on throughout the year. Animals must be fed and cared for every day. 

Job Outlook About this section

Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Other management occupations

4%

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers

-2%

 

Employment of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers is projected to decline 2 percent from 2014 to 2024. The continuing ability of the agricultural sector to produce more with fewer workers will cause some farmers to go out of business.

As land, machinery, seed, and chemicals become more expensive, only well-capitalized farmers and corporations will be able to buy many of the farms that become available. These larger, more productive farms are better able to withstand the adverse effects of climate and price fluctuations on farm output and income.

Still, several initiatives, such as the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the various farm loan programs, are designed to help farmers and ranchers acquire land and operating capital. These programs may help to offset the market pressures that farmers and ranchers face.

In contrast, agricultural managers should have more opportunities. Owners of large tracts of land, who often do not live on the property they own, increasingly will seek the expertise of agricultural managers to run their farms and ranches as businesses.

Job Prospects

Despite the expected continued consolidation of farmland and the projected decline in overall employment of this occupation, job prospects will be good for an increasing number of small-scale farmers who have developed successful market niches that involve personalized, direct contact with their customers. Many are finding opportunities in organic food production. Others use farmers’ markets that cater directly to urban and suburban consumers, allowing the farmers to capture a greater share of consumers’ food dollars.

Some small-scale farmers may improve their job prospects by participating in collectively owned marketing cooperatives that process and sell their products. Other farmers participate in community-supported agriculture (CSA) cooperatives that allow consumers to buy a share of the farmer’s harvest directly.

Employment projections data for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers

11-9013 929,800 911,700 -2 -18,100 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Agricultural and food science technicians

Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians assist agricultural and food scientists by performing duties such as measuring and analyzing the quality of food and agricultural products.

Associate's degree $36,480
Agricultural and food scientists

Agricultural and Food Scientists

Agricultural and food scientists research ways to improve the efficiency and safety of agricultural establishments and products.

Bachelor's degree $62,470
Agricultural workers

Agricultural Workers

Agricultural workers maintain the quality of farms, crops, and livestock by operating machinery and doing physical labor under the supervision of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers.

See How to Become One $20,090
Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents

Buyers and Purchasing Agents

Buyers and purchasing agents buy products and services for organizations to use or resell. They evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and review the quality of products.

Bachelor's degree $59,620

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about agriculture policy and farm advocacy, visit

Center for Rural Affairs

For more information about federal resources for agriculture, visit the following websites at the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

New Farmers

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program

Farm Service Agency

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

For more information on farm manager certification, visit

American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers

CareerOneStop

For a career video on farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers, visit

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers

O*NET

Aquacultural Managers

Farm and Ranch Managers

Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

Nursery and Greenhouse Managers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/farmers-ranchers-and-other-agricultural-managers.htm (visited December 04, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.