How Will Farmers Respond to Rising Labor Costs?
As of the first of the year, minimum wage and agricultural overtime pay scales have been updated. Initiated through Senate Bill 1066, minimum wage increases are set to continue for the next two years, ultimately stopping at $15.00 per hour at the beginning of 2023.
How are our state’s farmers and ranchers going to adapt? That’s the question many are asking, including Western Agricultural Processors Association President and CEO, Roger Isom.
Isom… “You know, how do we maintain the costs? Which right now, commodity prices are not great - they're not bad across the board - but they're not great. But yet costs continue to rise: energy, workers comp, minimum wage. And now you lower that overtime threshold. And granted, it's only half an hour each time. But especially on the high-labor crops, that makes it extremely difficult to stay competitive.”
Isom spoke to California Ag Today’s Patrick Cavanaugh about how growers are responding.
Isom… “They're planting almonds and walnuts, because they're going to lower labor crops, because you just can't do it. They're farming in other countries. Guys here that are farming in Mexico, farming in South America, because they can do it and still turn a profit. Where here it makes it incredibly difficult to do that. So that's the ultimate result is they're either changing crops or they're finding more and more ways to automate.”
Isom also noted that 46 other states don’t have overtime regulations for agricultural workers.