Farm Bureau disappointed at AB 1066 signing


Issue Date: September 14, 2016
By Christine Souza

In response to the governor's signing of Assembly Bill 1066, overtime legislation that will impact the livelihoods of farm employees and farms and ranches across California, the California Farm Bureau Federation expressed its disapproval of Gov. Jerry Brown's signing of AB 1066 early this week.

CFBF President Paul Wenger said the agricultural community is "extremely disappointed that this legislation was signed into law, as it will be harmful to farm employees, farmers, consumers and the environment."

"Those who work on California farms will see reduced paychecks and have their lives disrupted as these new worker overtime rules come into play," Wenger said. "California consumers will have fewer opportunities to buy California-grown farm products that are produced under the most stringent food safety, employment and environmental rules in the world."

Wenger added, "It is unfortunate that those who will suffer the economic consequences of this ill-conceived statute are not the ones that wrote it and passed it into law."

AB 1066, by Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, would expand overtime requirements for agricultural employees by requiring premium pay for farm employees after eight hours of work in a day or 40 hours in a week. Even though a similar bill failed to garner enough votes to pass the state Assembly in early June, through a process known as "gut and amend," it was revived.

Current California regulations require premium pay for agricultural employees after 10 hours in a day; California is one of only five states in the nation to offer overtime pay for farm employees.

Farmers and organizations that oppose the bill say it would actually reduce work hours and compensation for farm employees, by forcing farmers to restructure their operations in order to minimize overtime and the increased costs that it would bring. Opponents say farm employers also face stresses from scheduled increases in the minimum wage, higher costs to comply with other regulations, and competitive pressures from farmers in other states and nations who don't face the same requirements.

Extensively involved in battling this measure, for the fourth time in six years and the second time this year, Wenger said he is proud of the effort by county Farm Bureau leaders and numerous allied agricultural organizations who worked in opposition to the new overtime regulations for on-farm work.

"I am proud of the unparalleled, unified effort of all of agriculture in working to defeat this measure. Producers understood that this was something that was going to harm their employees," Wenger said. "While we had a great rallying cry, we have now seen that folks were more than willing to put facts aside to buy into the misguided rhetoric."

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.