Updated January, 2024
File C6-58

Checklist for Iowa Agricultural Employers

Many Iowa farmers and other agricultural employers are not familiar with policies and procedures to be considered when hiring employees. This checklist is an overview of points to consider in preparation for hiring one or more employees for a farm operation. References and contact information are provided for most of the topics listed. 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. Over time, this checklist will become outdated as laws and requirements change.

This checklist should not be considered legal advice, but merely a resource guide. 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

Considerations before starting the hiring process

Prepare Job or Position Descriptions

Conducting the job analysis, writing detailed descriptions of the position to guide the process of recruitment, interviewing, evaluation, and candidate selection

Employee Policy Document or Handbook

Consider establishing written employee policies in a document or handbook for employees. This document should be reviewed by a legal professional familiar with human resource law. Do not negate the employment-at-will doctrine.

Recruit Candidates for the Position

Creatively recruit a pool of candidates using word of mouth, social media, print and broadcast, along with local or area agencies.

Prepare for and Conduct Interviews

Using the job description as a guide, prepare for the interview by formulating a list of questions for the candidate.

Evaluate Candidates, Check References, Make Selection and Offer

Reflect on qualifications, assess or rank candidates, make and confirm a written employment offer with pertinent details.

Federal and State Tax, Withholding Forms

Obtain Federal EIN
(Federal Employer Identification Number)

Register with Iowa Department of Revenue for business tax registration or by phone, 1-800-367-3388

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

Report new and rehired employees on the Iowa Centralized Employee Registry (CER), submit within 15 days of employee’s start date or 1-877-274-2580

Iowa Unemployment Insurance

Agricultural employers who 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 Workforce Development (IWD) Unemployment Insurance Tax Bureau.

Complete Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification

Follow compliance procedures, maintain files separately from other human resource documents.


Comply with Wage and Overtime Laws

Provide to Employee

  • With each paycheck or pay deposit: Statement of earnings with the hours worked, wages earned and deductions made from the gross pay amount.
  • W-2 form and copies by January 31 of the following year.

Workers’ 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 February 28
  • IRS Form 943 - a summary of all agricultural wages and federal/SSA deposits by January 31
  • Additional forms and information available at: https://www.irs.gov/.

Links accessed January 2024.

Additional information on human resource management can be accessed on the Ag Decision Maker website.


Melissa O'Rourke, former extension farm and agribusiness management specialist


Melissa O'Rourke

former extension farm and agribusiness management specialist
View more from this author