Key Points:

Farm worker pay beats the national average, according to a study by Federated Farmers.

The Federated Farmers Rabobank Farm Employee Remuneration Report said farm workers earned an average income of $41,914 in the year to August, 2008, compared to the average non-farm income of $39,517.

Federated Farmers President Don Nicolson said the report proved average wage levels were higher on the farm.

"This is good news and reflects a new belief that agriculture offers a viable career option." Nicolson said. "This does not take into account a farm workers' total package value that actually pushes their income well above the average."

The average total package including salary and benefits was $46,374.

Managerial positions saw the biggest wage growth in 2008 up 20 per cent, casual skilled employees were up 5 per cent to an average of $19.99 an hour, while unskilled casual staff were up 14 per cent to $17.91 an hour.

Online job sites listed just under 500 vacancies, which was only a snapshot, he said

"We literally need thousands of people to take up farming in order to cover retirements, people leaving the industry as well as filling the new jobs being created," Nicolson said. "The Federation is moving to help meet the need for talented staff by establishing a rural jobs website to promote the many rural vacancies that exist."

The report surveyed 13 job categories in the dairy, grain and seed arable, sheep and beef sectors, including general farm-hand, tractor driver and farm manger.

General Manager Rabobank Rural New Zealand Ben Russell said the report demonstrated conclusively that, relative to other occupations, farm employees were competitively rewarded.

"Hopefully, this message will be picked up by career advisers as well as people considering a new career," Russell said. "While the general economic outlook is a little cloudy there is a shortage of labour in the agricultural sector."

LIE OF THE LAND:

* $46,374 average total package including salary and benefits.
* South Island workers earned more in 11 out of 13 full-time job categories.
* Managerial positions got the biggest wage increase last year, up 20 per cent.
* Average salaries up 19 per cent in arable, six per cent in dairy and two per cent for sheep/beef sectors.Managers' pay up an average of 20pc during the past year