When it comes to competitive salaries, the pork industry ranks pretty well against others in agriculture, according to AGRIcareers' 2002 Salary Survey.

Gary Maas, whose Massena, Iowa, firm concentrates on agricultural personnel recruiting, has conducted this survey since 1991. The figures come from actual salary offers made during the company's recruiting assignments. Once the survey is completed for the pork, dairy, beef and crop industries, Maas posts it on the AGRIcareers' Web site at www.agricareersinc.com

Overall, pork industry salaries are staying competitive. In the last three years, salaries for swine managers have increased by 26 percent, assistant managers by 14.2 percent and herdspersons by 12.8 percent.

"Plus, the increase in pork production salaries has outpaced inflation by at least 1.5 percent, sometimes more," says Maas. "This can catch employers by surprise, since it's more than the general inflation rate or cost-of-living index."

Pork production managers used to have the highest salaries in the survey, notes Maas, but now their dairy counterparts have taken over that position. One possible reason is that as a whole, dairies tend to be larger than pork operations.

Beef and crop industry employees tend to have lower salaries than pork and dairy. "Employees will accept less money to work in the beef industry vs. the pork industry," adds Maas, "partly because it has a better public image."

The survey also looks at employee benefits. "The general trend is to provide less housing and stronger insurance packages," says Maas. He notes that housing benefits tend to fluctuate. One trend the survey doesn't document involves company vehicles, especially for management personnel. Maas points out it's a perk that employees really like.

Having a competitive salary is important, but it's still only one element of keeping employees happy. "You have to make sure they know they're appreciated, have a chance to learn, are given recognition and responsibility, and have a chance to enjoy the job," says Maas. "It takes good people that have the right kind of talent to work in the pork industry."

If you're wondering how your operation's salaries stack up, do a quick review of your employees' salaries. Maas suggests doing that annually. Then compare your findings to the AGRIcareers' survey and at least one other one. This will help you identify not only how your operation compares to others, it also will uncover industry trends.

For more information about employee issues, contact Maas at (712) 779-3300 or e-mail agricari@netins.net