EL CENTRO, Calif. – In California, Governor Jerry Brown has signed a farm bill that will help change overtime pay rules for farm workers despite the push back from agricultural groups. “We know that it is going to have a drastic impact on Imperial Valley economy here. Our fieldworkers are definitely going to feel the effect of it,” said Linsey Dale, Imperial County Farm Bureau executive director.
AB 1066 was introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez who represents the 80th district in San Diego. The bill, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown this week, will change the duration of a farm workers day from ten to eight hours over a period of time. That means overtime pay would kick in after eight hours instead of ten.
But instead of benefiting the entire farm worker community, it could lead agriculture companies to provide less jobs. Local farm workers say that this new bill could lead to new innovative ways in growing crops and could potentially replace farm workers with new machines. “We’ve just placed orders for two automated harvesters from England that will need twenty people to run those machines rather than 200 people clipping,” says local farmer Larry Cox.
The new rules won’t take effect until 2019, lowering the ten hour day by half an hour each year until it reaches the goal of the standard eight hour day. Farmers with fewer than 25 employees will have a three-year exemption and will not be required to adhere to the new law until 2022.
“Farmers do not set the price of the crops that they sell and so they have to rely on the market. When their cost goes up to produce that crop they have to cut somewhere. And this is one of the areas they will be forced to cut,” added Dale.
“I think they got to look at California as being able to compete with other states or we are going to lose more and more people out of the state and jobs out of the state,” said Cox.