Ag OT Fix a No Go Pt 2

Ag OT Fix a No Go Pt 2

Bob Larson
Bob Larson
From the Ag Information Network, this is today’s Fruit Grower Report. As you’re undoubtedly aware, a Senate bill that would have given farmers in Washington state a 12-week exemption on the new 40-hour overtime rules failed to get the support it needed.

A disappointed Washington Policy Center’s Director of Ag Affairs, Pam Lewison says just do the math …

LEWISON … “What we’ve been told is that in 2023, during the fruit picking season, farmers were paying about $23 an hour to have fruit hand-picked throughout the state.

What that equates to in overtime wages is $32.50 an hour.”

As for the often heard, are they trying to run farmers out of business question …

LEWISON … “I think it’s a legitimate fear, but I also think that it isn’t so much about trying to force farmers out of business as it is about having a fundamental misunderstanding about farms operate.”

Lewison says farmers are not price setters …

LEWISON … “Farms are not able to absorb these kinds of costs because any increase in costs isn’t reflected in what we get paid. We can only get paid what the market will allow, and often those market allowance contracts are negotiated in advance.”

Lewison says we’re not like other industries …

LEWISON … “If a manufacturer suddenly has to pay overtime, they are able to say, well, we have an additional cost, now we have to raise the price of our product. Farms can’t do that. We, as farm owners, do not negotiate based on what our total input costs are.”

If we did, Lewison says, do you think the price of food is high now?

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