Agricultural Employment and PPP Calculations for Seasonal Employers


Many small businesses throughout the country are applying for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). In a previous post, my colleague George Haynes described who might be eligible for these loans, including a table of average annual and monthly payrolls per employee in various industries in Montana. In this post, I look more specifically at employment in the agricultural sector.

In 2018, Montana reported 5,843 employees in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting  sectors (NAICS code 11). Nearly half of these workers were employed in animal production. Figure 1 shows employment in Montana agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting sectors, along with those employed specifically in animal production from 2009-2018.

Figure 1 Data Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.


Of those employed in animal production, the vast majority of workers are employed in cattle ranching. Figure 2 shows the number of workers employed in animal production and cattle ranching from 2009-2018.

Figure 2 Data Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.


Figure 3 shows the number of workers employed in the production of several different crops in Montana from 2009-2018. Greenhouses employed more workers than any other crop every year. Vegetable and Melon is typically the second highest employing crop category, followed by wheat, potatoes, or Nursery and Trees. Greenhouse, vegetable and melon, and nursery production generally involve highly labor-intensive activities.

Figure 3 Data Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

Agricultural employment is often seasonal, and the Paycheck Protection Plan originally allowed seasonal employers to calculate their maximum loan amount based on monthly average payments for payroll during the 12-week period beginning February 15, 2019 or beginning March 1, 2019 and ending June 30, 2019. Due to potential disparities in loan qualification for seasonal employers who hire more workers in summer months  provides seasonal employers the option to use any 12-week consecutive period from May 1, 2019 – September 15, 2019 to calculate their maximum loan amount. Figure 4 shows the number of agricultural workers employed for fewer than 150 days in 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2017. Idaho employs more seasonal farm workers than Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming, and the number of seasonal employees decreased between each census for both Idaho and Montana. Montana reported 12,212 seasonal farm workers (employed fewer than 150 days) in 2017.Figure 4 Data Source: United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Agricultural Census.


The last day to apply for and receive a loan through the PPP is June 30, 2020. Small businesses may be eligible for a loan as long as they were in operation for any 8-week period between May 1, 2019 and September 15, 2019.

(Photo by NRCS Oregon is licensed under CC BY 4.0)


About Author

Diane Charlton is an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics at Montana State University. She received her Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of California, Davis. She has done research on agricultural labor markets in Mexico and the United States along with researching the determinants of migration. She never tires of talking about agriculture with her sister and brother-in-law from their almond orchard in the Central Valley of California, and she is looking forward to learning more about and researching agricultural production in Montana and the northern Great Plains.

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