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Hiring farm employees? Check this list

Looking to hire some help on your farm this year?

Whether you're hiring a full-time farm manager or somebody to haul manure for you a few hours a month, don't make light of the hiring process. A good farm employment management plan can erase a lot of potential headaches, says Iowa State University Extension farm management specialist Melissa O'Rourke, but make sure you consult with the right people before making major employment decisions on your farm.

"Consult with personal qualified tax, accounting, insurance and legal advisers as they will be familiar with the farm business, and can provide expert advice on specific needs," she says. "Also consult with state and federal officials who will be familiar with changes in laws and requirements."

Following is a list of resources for making farm employment decisions. Don't mistake these resources for legal counsel, O'Rourke says. "This tool is meant to provide guidelines in a variety of areas," she says.

Review farm needs and hiring practices

Prepare job/position descriptions

Employee policy document or handbook

Recruit candidates for the position

Prepare for and conduct interviews

Evaluate candidates, check references, make selection and offer

Federal and State tax, withholding forms Obtain FEIN (Federal Employer ID Number)

Register with Iowa Department of Revenue for business tax registration

New employees complete both Federal and State W-4 forms for withholding (within 15 days)

Report new employees on Iowa Centralized Employee Registry (CER) form (top part of Iowa W-4)–submit within 15 days.

  • By mail: CER, PO Box 10322, Des Moines, IA 50306-0322. 
  • By Fax: 1-800-759-5881
  • By Web

Iowa unemployment insurance – determine whether you are a “liable employer.”

  • By phone: 1-800-972-2024
  • Web
  • Agricultural employers that paid cash wages of $20,000 or more to agricultural laborers in any quarter of the current or previous calendar year, or employed 10 or more workers in some portion of a day in 20 separate weeks in the current calendar year or the preceding calendar year is a “liable employer” who is obligated to report wages and pay unemployment insurance taxes to the Iowa Unemployment Insurance Division.
  • Obtain an Unemployment Insurance Handbook for Iowa Employers

Complete Form I-9 (Employer Eligibility and Identity Verification) and keep on file

Posters  – Obtain/Post required posters:

Comply with wage and overtime laws

  • Minimum Wage = $7.25/hour (state or federal)
  • Federal law requires overtime (1½ times regular rate) be paid for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Farm workers may not be subject to federal minimum wage/ overtime rules if worker is employed on a “small farm” - i.e., a farm that used less than 500 "man days" of farm labor in any calendar quarter of the preceding calendar year.
  • Wage & Hour guidance for ag employees
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Iowa wage and hour law

Provide to employee

  • With each paycheck: Statement of earnings with the hours worked, wages earned and deductions made from the paycheck
  • W-2 form/copies by Jan. 31 of the following year.

Worker's compensation compliance

In Iowa, workers compensation is not required for:

  • Agricultural employees whose employer has a cash payroll of less than $2,500 in the calendar year preceding the injury; or
  • The president, vice president, secretary and treasurer of a family farm corporation and their spouses, and the parents, brothers, sisters, children, stepchildren and their spouses of either the officers or their spouses.
  • Otherwise, Iowa law requires agricultural employers to have a reliable method of providing workers’ compensation benefits to eligible employees.  Consult with your insurance professional.

Annually file the following forms

  • IRS Form W-3 – a summary of all W-2 forms with all “Copy A” of W-2 forms to Social Security Administration (SSA) by Feb. 28
  • IRS Form 943 – summary of all agricultural wages and federal/SSA deposits by Jan. 31
  • Forms available at:

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