Employment Security Department Labor Market & Economic Analysis Branch Agricultural Services

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Figure 1

U.S. Employment in Farms and Agricultural Services, 1969-1997

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

Agricultural services sector is comprised of a wide array of services sold to farm-oriented enterprises and to non-farm final consumers. Those farm-oriented services are essentially intermediate activities, providing inputs for agricultural production. These service activities take on various forms; for example, an agricultural service occurs when a firm provides soil preparation services for a farming enterprise, when a company performs crop planting, cultivating and harvesting services, when a veterinary provides services for livestock, or when a firm provides temporary labor on a contract basis to farms during production or harvesting, or even providing management expertise for farming enterprises. Although these examples hint at the variety of services captured by the industry, they do not convey the sheer number of activities performed by “non-farm” agricultural services. Such services include veterinary services for pets and other animal specialties (e.g., non-livestock), landscape architectural and planning services, lawn and garden services, and ornamental shrub and tree services.

Definition of Agricultural services

This industry report uses industry definitions and concepts that underlie the U.S. government's Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. In the SIC system, agricultural services (SIC 07) is a major industry, one of five such industries that form the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sector. According to the Standard Industrial Classification, there are six separate agricultural services subsectors and 14 market segments defined by broad service categories. Each of the 111,430 agricultural services establishments operating in the United States in 1997 was placed in one of these six industry subsectors:

  • Soil preparation services (SIC 071), including plowing, application of fertilizer, seed bed preparation and other services for improving the soil for crop planting;

  • Crop services (SIC 072), including crop planting, cultivating and protecting (e.g., aerial dusting and spraying, cultivation services, disease control of crops, entomological services, irrigation system operation systems, orchard cultivation services, seeding crops, pruning of orchard trees and vines, and weed control); crop harvesting by machine; crop preparation services for market (e.g., sorting, grading and packing of fruits and vegetables, grain cleaning and fumigation, drying of corn, fruits and vegetables); and cotton ginning;

  • Veterinary services (SIC 074), including animal hospitals, veterinarians and veterinary services for livestock, and animal hospitals, veterinarians and veterinary services for pets;

  • Animal services, except veterinary (SIC 075), including livestock services (e.g., artificial insemination services, livestock breeding, milk testing, cattle spraying, vaccinating livestock, sheep dipping and shearing, and custom slaughtering) and animal specialty services (e.g., animal shelters, boarding horses, kennels, dog pounds, breeding of non-livestock animals, showing of pets, horse training);

  • Farm labor and management services (SIC 076), including farm labor contractors and crew leaders, and farm management services; and

  • Landscape and horticultural services (SIC 078), including landscape counseling and planning (e.g., landscape architects, horticultural advisory services), lawn and garden services (e.g., garden planting, lawn care and mowing services, sod laying, turf installation), and ornamental shrub and tree services (e.g., arborist services, ornamental tree planting and pruning, tree planting and pruning, utility line tree trimming services).

Agricultural services have a growing presence in both the national and Washington State economies. In 1969, 0.5 percent of the nation’s total employment were employed in agricultural services industries. For Washington, agricultural services only 0.4 percent of the state’s 1969 total employment. By 1997, agricultural services’ share of total national employment had grown to 1.2 percent; while in Washington, its share of total employment had tripled to 1.5 percent.

Current Status

In 1998, the Washington agricultural services industry employed 24,165 workers; representing about one-fourth of the state’s workforce in natural resources. Growth in the number of agricultural services establishments in Washington has been steady; between 1981 and 1998, the average annual growth in establishments has been 6.8 percent, with “non-farm” agricultural services capturing the lion’s share (97 percent) of the industry’s growth.

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