Whole Farm > Human Resources > Employee Labor & Management

Checklist for Iowa Agricultural Employers

File C6-58
Written February, 2011

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This checklist is an overview of points to consider as farmers prepare to hire one or more employees for their farm operation. References and contact information are provided for each area. Please do not consider this checklist to be exhaustive, as it is impossible to list everything an employer should know to comply with state and federal laws. This checklist will become outdated over time as laws and requirements change. This tool is meant to provide guidelines in a variety of areas; the checklist should not be consider legal advice. 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. Also consult with state and federal officials who will be familiar with changes in laws and requirements.

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)

Apply Online
SS-4 Form
IRS Phone:  1-800-829-4933

Register with Iowa Department of Revenue for business tax registration
On the Web

By phone:  1-800-572-3943

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

  • 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: www.irs.gov


Melissa O'Rourke, farm and business management specialist, 563-382-2949, morourke@iastate.edu