MANHATTAN — A lack of a skilled agricultural workforce is a top inhibitor of growth and expansion for many Kansas agriculture businesses. To help support growth in agriculture, the Kansas Department of Agriculture seeks to help the industry better understand the workforce needs among agricultural employers in the state. In an effort to link the supply of human capital to the needs of Kansas agribusiness enterprises, KDA conducted the first Kansas Agriculture Workforce Needs Assessment Survey in 2016, assisted by the Agricultural Land Use Survey Center at Kansas State University.

The survey was constructed to gather information about the agriculture industry’s current and future workforce needs and the types of skills required to support economic growth in the state. A total of 250 responses from farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses were received from across the state and region, representing almost 12,000 employees. In total, the agriculture, food and food processing sectors employ more than 234,000 Kansans, or 12.4 percent of the Kansas workforce.

“We are committed to growing agriculture in Kansas, and that depends on a reliable and thriving workforce,” said Secretary of Agriculture Jackie McClaskey. “We know that means developing and recruiting skilled, talented workers to fill critical roles across the Kansas agriculture industry.”

The survey indicated that a number of vacancies exist in the agricultural industry, including a significant number which are considered entry-level positions, requiring no advanced degree (e.g. carpenter, elevator worker). Over half of the current job openings are in the fields of agriculture mechanics, agriculture business and animal science. Employers indicated that basic skills such as written communication and applied mathematics are lacking in applicants, along with “soft” skills such as motivation, time management and dependability and “hard” skills such as critical/analytical thinking and basic communication/writing.

The findings will be used along with action items developed at the Kansas Summit on Agricultural Growth in August to help direct KDA’s vision in serving the farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses of Kansas. By working with secondary schools and postsecondary educational institutions, the agriculture industry can develop beneficial partnerships that will help schools teach the skills and content needed by employers and will help the industry gain access to trained applicants.

To view the survey reports go to: For more information, please contact Russell Plaschka, KDA workforce development specialist, at 785-564-7466 or