Farm kids: Don’t worry about wages

A new study by Cornell University agricultural economists says family members who work on the family dairy farm make $22,000 less annually than comparable hired managers, but are handsomely compensated with “socioemotional” wealth.

“While $22,000 seems like a large penalty, there are non-financial rewards they experience working for the family business,” Loren Tauer, professor at Cornell’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management said in a release (all figures US$).

There are roughly 5,400 dairy farms in New York, large and small. “Family members like to work for the family farm, as it brings prestige and satisfaction by working with siblings, cousins and parents,” Tauer said.

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“The socioemotional part is that these family members feel an attachment to the dairy farm. It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling.”

The study, “Socioemotional Wealth in the Family Farm,” by Tauer and co-author Jonathan Dressler, will be published in a forthcoming Agricultural Finance Review.

Dressler explained that socioemotional aspects of running a dairy farm “create a sense of pride and belonging, as collectively each family member is contributing an effort toward a common family goal.”

The release said Dressler and Tauer examined dairy farm income in 1999 through 2008 and showed that New York farm manager median salaries varied widely from $41,884 in 1999, to $64,466 in 2004 to $74,986 in 2005, all adjusted for inflation to 2008 dollars.

“While the family farm managers were paid on average about $22,000 less, family members were compensated in other ways, such as with equity in the family business, which includes land values and the value of the operation,” the release said.

With “sweat equity,” Tauer said, children eventually inherit farms or are given an opportunity to purchase farms at a low estimate of the farms’ value. That future ownership opportunity and the chance to work with family members offset reduced annual compensation. — AGCanada.com Network

 

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