The current employment picture of agricultural services is nearly three-fold larger than it was in the early 1980s. Between 1981 and 1998, farm-related agricultural services added over 5,700 workers, an average annual growth rate of 8.7 percent; non-farm related agricultural services added nearly 10,000 workers for an average annual growth rate of 12.8 percent.
Key factors that affect the demand for agricultural services include the strength of the U.S. agriculture sector and the general economy. Farm-related agricultural services are tied directly to the economic well-being to the farm sector. The economic well-being of the farm sector can be measured by any number of factors including farm income, cash receipts, asset values (real estate and non-real estate), debt and debt-to-asset ratios. Other factors have played an important role in the robust growth of farm-related agricultural services. Similar to the vigorous growth in business services, “outsourcing” has become increasingly commonplace from soil preparation and planting to cultivating and harvesting. Technological advances within and outside agriculture have facilitated demand for agricultural services. Furthermore, the mode of operations for agricultural firms has dramatically changed in recent decades. The drive for improved productivity and increased competitiveness has resulted in the dramatic growth in the use of temporary and contract workers.
With respect to non-farm agricultural services, personal disposable income and general economic performance are the key demand factors. With rising disposable incomes and technological advances, consumers have increased their demand for lawn and garden services, ornamental shrub and tree services, and veterinary and animal services.
Agricultural services in Washington is largely composed of small companies that provide various farm-related and non-farm related services. One of the subsectors (landscape and horticultural services) accounts for over 60 percent of the total 3,514 establishments, and average just over 4 employees per establishment. By contrast, the farm labor and management services subsector averages 129 employees per establishment, while animal services (except veterinary) averages around 3 employees per establishment. Over 54 percent of all agricultural services workers are found in establishments with less than 20 employees. More than three-fourths of all employees in this industry are in small businesses with less than 100 employees.