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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why AB1066 is bad for California agriculture.

The agriculture industry feeds you, clothes you and helps stimulate the economy. But our elected officials are in the midst of threatening the agriculture livelihood of California. Agriculture is a $2.4 trillion industry providing over 1.3 billion jobs. But that could soon be changing, and not for the good. California politicians already approved a minimum wage increase that will raise our wages $1/ hr every year until it is $15/hour by 2022.  This wage increase coupled with the proposed Assembly Bill 1066 will kill the California agriculture industry.


AB1066 is proposing to change our agriculture overtime laws. Although some would like to tell you we don't have such in place, we do. Agriculture employees currently get time and half after 10 hours of work. AB1066 wants to change that to 8 hours. So by 2022, after 8 hours of work we will be paying our farm laborers $22.50/ hour. That is an additional $15/ day per employee if we continue to work a 10 hour day. This number doesn't even reflect the additional taxes the employer will be paying on the employee. For a mid size farm who has 10 employees that's an additional $150/ day or $900/ week for a 6 day workweek.

My family is a small family farm in the heart of agriculture's Central Valley, an additional $900/ week is a lot of money. Now let's say we do this for 60 days during our busy harvest season, now that's $9,000! If we have to pay overtime after 8 hours and attempt to continue running our business as we did before $15/hr and before an overtime law change, it would cost us an additional $9,000 for 60 days.

Now let's do some more math. Instead of offering that extra 2 hours of overtime to our employees so they continue to work the same hours, let's hire an extra person and have them work 8 hours as well. 8 hours/day at $15/ hour is $120/ day. We could bring on that new person for 75 days and it would cost us the same $9,000. So by cutting the hours of 10 people we can just hire a new person and not pay overtime.

Those original 10 employees would not be happy that their hours and subsequent wages will be cut. We will not be able to keep our farms running as we once did. But financially, as a business decision it makes more sense. At the end of the day, farms are a business and we must make the best business decision to keep operating.

But if our farm isn't able to keep running as it once did, those original employees will not be able to keep their lives the way they once did either. Those farm laborers will have to get another job, find side work or obtain financial assistance from state or federal programs. Sometimes our politicians don't understand how their decisions will have unintended consequences on others.

Watch this video it also explains it quite well!


AB1066 proponents say this bill will help farm workers make more money and even the playing field with other jobs. No, it won't. AB1066 will force agriculture employers to cut hours of our current employees and hire additional workers during the peak seasons. That is the whole reason the agriculture overtime is the way it is now. And we aren't alone. Firefighters, Programmers, Actors, Ski Resort employees and even some state employees are all the same as agriculture is now. We have peak seasons and slow times of year. Why are we just wanting to change agriculture? I want to Keep California working. Do you?

Please, take a few minutes and send a note to your Assemblymember and urge them to vote NO on AB1066.  The California Assembly is scheduled to discuss and vote on this matter Monday, August 29th.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny

3 comments:

  1. Nice job Jenny...hopefully this reaches the lawmakers who are voting!! more importantly their staffers who will keep their own exemption!

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  2. Weren't you crying the same song about the cost of scarce water last year, how did that work out? Fresno Bee reports satisfaction with bumper crops even with reduceded prices.

    If you truly can't pay your workers the same way other American businesses have for over 100 years, do you actually even have a going concern? Either fix your business model or fold up shop.

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    Replies
    1. Farmers are price takers, not price setters like most American businesses. When our costs go up, we have to make it work or fold up shop. With increased water costs and labor costs we may not have much options. California already has the highest agriculture wage and highest food regulations, it is very hard to compete with other states and countries with less standards. California farms are moving to other states to stay in business.
      We most certainly aren't having bumper crops, almonds are stressed and need water. But some farmers solution to high costs is to grow a higher value crop, almonds being one. Our state production has increased because there are more acres now. All because farmers are trying to make money will the higher input costs of water and labor.

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