The 2012 annual salary survey yielded new insights into ag retailers’ compensation, benefits and education requirements. This is the thirteenth year for AgProfessional’s salary survey, which is an informal, random survey of subscribers who are agronomy department managers or general managers. Responders vary from year to year as no data is kept that would identify one respondent from one year to the next. Respondents answer questions about salaries for applicators, agronomists, general managers and assistant managers and agronomy department managers and assistant managers.

Although data from one year to the next cannot proved an exact comparison, the data does show trends. See our “About the Respondents” for a detailed breakdown of the most important data.

Salary Survey 2012A majority of respondents who took the survey are in Midwestern states. The Midwestern focus is shown by the fact that 65.3 percent of the total responses received came from the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Surprising New Trends

What stood out the most in this year’s survey is the average annual bonus for nearly all positions. All bonuses, with the exception of agronomists, were higher this year than last year. The average bonus for applicators was $8,142 this year compared to $4,903 last year. The average bonus for general managers was $31,059 this year compared to $14,217 last year. The average bonus for the agronomy department manager was $13,361 this year compared to $9,203 last year. Only agronomists saw slightly less bonuses with $7,845 this year compared to $8,723 last year.

Salary Survey 2012Since nearly all bonuses were higher this year, it seems to indicate that dealerships had a profitable year n 2011, which appears to have translated into higher bonuses.

A major difference that showed up this year was in the range and average of acres served per operation. Last year, respondents said they served somewhere between 3,200 acres and 60 million. This year, they reported a range of 2,500 acres to 12 million. This reduced the average acres served to 287,856 compared to 789,264 last year. We aren’t reporting that the average acres served has actually decreased, only that the acres served from two separate sample groups differed from one year to the next.

New data collected this year for the survey included a breakdown of sales between agronomy sales and farm supply sales. Agronomy sales ranged from $25,000 to $350 million to average $23,855,729. Farm supply sales ranged from $10,000 to $2 billion for an average of $53,200,184. If the average sales for agronomy and farm supply were added together, the average between the total would be $38,527,956.

Salary Highlights

The biggest salary trends this year showed an increase for agronomists, general managers and agronomy department managers. The average agronomist salary in last year’s survey was $52,717. This year, respondents’ answers showed that the average agronomist salary was $56,927.

Salary Survey 2012The average salary for general managers showed the most significant difference this year compared to the other job titles. This can be explained by the number of higher end salaries reported, suggesting that larger, more regional operations answered the survey. The average salary for general managers in 2010 was $74,170. However, in 2011, the average salary was $98,440.

The average salary for agronomy department managers was also higher this year at $73,232 compared with $64,058 last year.

The average salary for applicators last year was $43,945. This year, the average salary was $42,312. A different group of respondents from year to year plays into this average, but it also likely indicates the addition of more machines and hiring less experienced applicators to meet the volume of business.

Although applicators’ average salary was slightly less than reported in 2010, it’s not a statistically significant decrease. The increase in the average applicator bonus could make up for the slight decrease, considering that average applicator bonuses were higher in 2011 by $3,239. Applicator bonuses were determined by four main categories: acres treated, company profit, overall job performance and other. Thirty-seven percent of managers answering the survey said overall job performance was the main way an applicator’s bonus was determined.

Statistically none of the positions showed a dramatic increase in the average amount of hours worked. For applicators, the average hours worked per week even dropped. Last year, applicators worked a 65-hour work week on average while applicators put in 55 hours per week in 2011. Agronomists averaged 52.3 hours per week this year compared to 53.4 hours last year. General managers worked nearly identical average hours this year at 54.9 hours compared to 54 hours last year. Agronomy department managers worked an average of 53.4 hours per week this year compared with 54.8 hours last year.

Since average hours worked didn’t increase significantly, it appears the salaries increased due to higher wages since hours worked didn’t seem to be a reason for the increase.

If we calculate the average hourly wages by dividing average annual salary by the average hours worked for the specific position/responsibility, average hourly wages reflected the increases in average salaries this year.

For applicators, average hourly wages changed from $13.52 per hour last year to $15.30 per hour this year. For agronomists, average hourly wages went from $19.74 per hour to $21.76 per hour this year. General managers’ average hourly wages saw the biggest change since average annual salaries started off higher. They made $27.44 per hour on average in 2010, while they made an average of $35.86 per hour in 2011. Agronomy department managers earned an average of $23.35 per hour last year and $27.39 per hour this year.

New Retirement Details

Every year, AgProfessional finds new details to ask respondents that are related to salaries or benefits. This year, we asked respondents to give us more detail about how their 401(k) plan is structured with their company. Respondents were offered five possible choices from which to choose. The majority of respondents, 48 percent, said their company provides a 50/50 match or other percentage contribution to their 401(k) plan. The next most picked answer, 23 percent, was the employer offers a percent of wages to the 401(k) plan. Seventeen percent said their company provides an employee-only program, while 7 percent said their company offers a specific dollar amount to the employee’s plan. Only 5 percent indicated their company offered some other form of contribution.

The area of retirement has been an issue flagged at several ag retailer industry events over the past couple of years, which is why we’ve begun to focus on more details surrounding retirement. Watch for more information to come in subsequent years.

Salary Survey 2012Experts have said that as the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement, the impact will be seen in the ag retail and agribusiness sector. Since AgProfessional has not collected substantial information in regard to this topic, we turned to Ag, the leading online job board for agriculture, food, biotechnology and natural resources. With more than 3,600 new jobs posted each month from agribusiness companies in North America, is able to see trends in employment and retirement in the agriculture industry. shared with us some data it had collected through its own surveys regarding retirement in the ag sector.

“Projected retirement numbers were higher in 2010-2011, but they were lowered again according to the 2011-2012 HR Review. Indications show that in the next two years, 58 percent of companies will have between 1 percent and 5 percent of their staff considering retirement, down from 74 percent in 2010.

“The outlook for agriculture jobs is good, with nearly 47 percent of respondents to the HR Review saying they anticipate their workforce to increase in the next two years and 51 percent expect it to stay the same. The number of companies that expected a workforce decrease was 2 percent (the same as 2010).

“Sixty-five percent of respondents said they would increase college/university recruiting in the next 1 to 5 years (up from 54.4 percent in 2010) with the majority indicating that was a result of competition for talent and career progression/succession planning.”

Editor’s Note: All responses to this survey are kept confidential. No names were collected with this survey. This is not a scientific poll, and the data is only used for the purposes of this article. We thank all those who participated in this year’s survey.