Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, April 01, 2016, Page 4, Image 4

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April 1, 2016
Calif. wage hike could force farm mechanization
Capital Press
posals to incrementally raise
California’s minimum wage
to $15 an hour could lead to
job losses throughout agricul-
ture, escalate the push toward
mechanization and send some
farm operations out of state,
industry insiders say.
Growers of labor-inten-
sive crops such as stone fruit,
berries and vines would fi nd it
nearly impossible to compete
in the global marketplace un-
less they could fi nd a way to
harvest with less labor, said
Barry Bedwell, president of
the California Fresh Fruit As-
“You’re going to see an ac-
celerated trend toward crops
that use less labor, and a trend
toward more research of mech-
anization,” Bedwell told the
Capital Press. “Unfortunately,
we’re also going to see an ac-
celerated trend of people mov-
ing their operations, if they
can, outside of California.”
A rapid increase in the min-
imum wage from the current
$10 an hour would cause many
farm jobs to be eliminated,
agreed Bryan Little, the Cal-
ifornia Farm Bureau Federa-
tion’s director of employment
“It’s just going to make it
more and more expensive to
employ people,” Little said.
Farm groups’ concerns
were heightened March 28
when legislators and labor
unions announced a tentative
deal to take the state’s mini-
mum wage to $15 an hour by
2022. A union-backed initia-
tive to reach the $15 threshold
by 2021 has qualifi ed for the
November ballot.
Tim Hearden/Capital Press
A picker at Maywood Farms in Corning, Calif., pulls fi gs off a tree and puts them in his bin during the
August harvest. Though many laborers earn above the minimum wage, California farm groups believe
proposals to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour could lead to job losses and an escalated
push to mechanization.
One-two punch
For growers, the measures
are part of a one-two punch as
lawmakers are also consider-
ing a bill to end exceptions for
agriculture from California’s
overtime laws. Under the bill
by Assemblywoman Lore-
na Gonzales, D-San Diego,
ag employers would have to
observe the same eight-hour
work day and 40-hour work
week as other employers rath-
er than paying overtime only
after 10 hours in a day or 60
hours in a week under current
state law.
In many cases, the pro-
posed laws could end up
harming the people they
were intended to help. Chuck
Herrin, whose Sunrise Farm
Labor provides about 2,500
workers each year in the San
Joaquin Valley, told The As-
sociated Press that farmers
would likely hire 10 percent
fewer workers because of the
higher cost of business.
“It’s going to be devastat-
ing” to fi eldworkers and their
dependent relatives, Herrin
told the AP.
One Fresno County farm-
worker is hopeful. Rafael
Gutierrez, 53, earned $11 an
hour from his last job picking
peaches and grapes while his
girlfriend makes $14 an hour
at Target.
“Right now, we’re just
making it,” Gutierrez told the
AP. “Life is expensive.”
The proposed increase
would enable him to treat his
family to weekend dinners
out and a short vacation to
Disneyland, he told the wire
Many California farm-
workers already earn well
above the minimum wage,
largely because a labor short-
age in recent years has given
workers leverage in negoti-
ating with growers. For in-
stance, the average wage for
a strawberry harvest worker is
$12.56 an hour, and it’s higher
during the peak months, said
Carolyn O’Donnell, spokes-
woman for the California
Strawberry Commission.
Fewer jobs
But contingency plans
made in response to a labor
crunch that has cost U.S. ag-
riculture an estimated $3.1 bil-
lion a year could end up edging
some workers out. Growers of
many commodities that have
traditionally been picked by
hand are attempting to inte-
grate technology.
For example, the raisin
harvest, which has required
as many as 60,000 workers
during its six-week peak, is
rapidly being mechanized, ac-
cording to a University of Cal-
ifornia-Davis report. In 2014,
one-quarter of California’s
185,000 acres of raisin-type
grapes were harvested by ma-
chine, the university’s migra-
tion experts reported.
“I think (the higher min-
imum wage) probably will
accelerate that,” the Farm Bu-
reau’s Little said. As another
example, he pointed to pro-
cessing tomatoes, which 20
years ago were hand-picked
but are now mostly mechani-
cally harvested.
Other growers may move
some or all of their operations
out of state, industry insiders
say. One major strawberry
producer has indicated that
any future expansion of its op-
eration will happen in Mexico
and not California, the Fresh
Fruit Association’s Bedwell
In the Imperial Valley, ris-
ing costs could prompt more
growers of vegetables and
other annuals to plant their
crops in Arizona or Mexi-
co, where some have already
gone because of California’s
stricter labor and workers’
compensation laws, the CFBF
has noted.
“When you combine this
(minimum wage) with the
overtime bill … then look at
paid sick leave, the Affordable
Care Act and piling more and
more costs onto employers,
eventually you just get to the
point where it becomes an un-
sustainable thing to be able to
employ as many people as you
do,” Little said.
Rising costs
Under the legislative deal
that Gov. Jerry Brown hailed
as potentially historic, Cal-
ifornia’s minimum wage
would increase to $10.50 in
2017, to $11 an hour in 2018
and by a dollar a year until
2022, the Los Angeles Times
reported. After that, wag-
es would rise with infl ation,
though in tough economic
times the governor could de-
lay increases, according to the
U.S. honey production falls following big year
Capital Press
U.S. honey production
came back down to earth in
2015 after exceptional produc-
tion in 2014.
At 156.5 million pounds,
honey production was 12 per-
cent lower than in 2014, ac-
cording to the National Agri-
cultural Statistics Service.
The decline was on a 3 per-
cent decrease in honey-produc-
ing colonies and a 10 percent de-
crease in yield per colony. The
total colony count, at 2.66 mil-
lion, was down 80,000 colonies,
and yield per colony was down
6.2 pounds to 58.9 pounds.
The production decline
was no surprise to Darren
Cox, president of Cox Honey
of Utah and president of the
American Honey Producers
Many beekeepers reported
problems with failing queen
bees, others reported more
mite problems and struggles
with mite control, he said.
Beekeepers in the Mid-
west had issues with neonic-
otinoid dust from treated corn
seed, which migrated directly
onto hives and onto blooming
plants, making their way back
to hives, he said.
Still others were hit by
fumigants and insect growth
regulators in California from
almond and peach growers
applying more chemicals for
crop protection, he said.
“Overall, I’ve heard hon-
ey production was down for
many, many people,” he said.
NASS statistics show 2015
honey production was 21.8
million pounds below 2014’s
178.3 million pounds, which
was up 29 percent over the
previous year.
Production increased in
U.S. honey production
(Millions of pounds)
156.5 million pounds;
down 12.2% from 2014
Capital Press graphic
18 of the 40 states reporting
but was down in the top fi ve
states. Top producer North
Dakota was down 14 percent
to 36.3 million pounds on the
same number of colonies. Sec-
ond-ranked South Dakota was
down 21 percent to 19.1 mil-
lion pounds on 10,000 more
Cox said many California
beekeepers sent their hives to
the Dakotas due to drought-re-
lated challenges, including
a lack of pollen variety and
needed nutrition for queens.
But he believes there is start-
ing to be too many bees in the
Dakotas for good honey pro-
duction, he said.
In the Intermountain West,
a lot of beekeepers said bee
hives didn’t build up well due
to the combination of contact
with crop protection chemicals
and a bad queen year in Cal-
ifornia, and just shut down as
soon as winter hit. Cold July
weather took a toll at the high-
er elevations, he said.
Honey production in Cali-
fornia, at 8.2 million pounds,
was down 4.8 percent year
over year on 45,000 fewer
colonies and a decrease of 9
pounds per colony.
In California’s fourth year
of drought, honey production
for Wooten’s Golden Queens
operation near Redding was
“pretty close to zippo,” said
beekeeper Glenda Wooten.
“It was a tough, tough year
for bees,” with nothing grow-
ing the year before and nothing
blooming in 2015, she said.
She and her husband, Shan-
non, had to supplement their
roughly 5,000 hives from
spring through much of the
summer and again in the fall.
Honey production was also
lower in Idaho, which was
down 16 percent on 11,000
fewer colonies and a loss of 2
pounds per colony. Oregon’s
production declined 5 percent
on the same number of col-
onies but 2 pounds less per
Washington’s production
was up 7 percent on 5,000
additional colonies and un-
changed yield per colony.
Dan Wheat/Capital Press
Workers prune Kanzi apple
trees in the Mt. View Orchard,
East Wenatchee, Wash., on
March 14.
DOL to
Capital Press
YAKIMA, Wash. — The
Wage and Hour Division of
the U.S. Department of La-
bor will continue robust en-
forcement of wage laws and
regulations with agricultural
producers throughout Cen-
tral Washington this season,
a farm labor association says.
The division outlined its
enforcement strategy at a
meeting in Yakima, accord-
ing to an email labor alert to
members from WAFLA, for-
merly the Washington Farm
Labor Association.
Violations will result in
civil monetary penalties, es-
pecially for repeated offenses,
WAFLA said.
Investigators will place
heavy emphasis on start and
stop times of actual hours
worked and compensation
for piece-rate workers for
non-productive time, the alert
states. That includes trav-
el time between fi elds, time
moving equipment and idle-
ness due to machine break-
Common violations in-
clude failure to provide work-
ers with the WH-516 form
disclosing terms and condi-
tions of work and failure to
post the Migrant and Seasonal
Worker Rights poster, WAF-
LA said.
DOL said it will continue
to use “hot goods” seizures
of crops, when warranted, to
prevent products produced in
violation of labor laws from
entering the supply chain,
WAFLA said.
WAFLA offers webinars
and mock audits of DOL in-
Last August, a Mesa ap-
ple grower paid a $16,000
fi ne to get apples cleared for
packing after DOL investiga-
tors allegedly found children
working in his orchard and
placed a hold on the packing.
The grower said two children
were not picking but were in
an orchard because the work-
ers had no child care.
Imnaha Pack blamed for killing Wallowa County ram
Capital Press
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The Imnaha Pack is a busy
On March 9, also on pri-
vate pasture in the Upper
Swamp Creek area, a calf
was found dead with all of
its internal organs and most
of its muscle tissue con-
sumed. Only the skull and
hide were intact of what was
estimated to be a 500-pound
steer. It was estimated to
have been killed March 7
or 8. ODFW confirmed the
wolf kill based on bite mark
size and location, tracks,
scat and other kill site evi-
dence, according to a depre-
dation report.
The livestock owner saw
two wolves about 400 yards
from the carcass, leaving the
site. ODFW staff in a plane
later in the day saw four mem-
bers of the Imnaha Pack about
3 miles away.
A calf was found injured
in Wallowa County March 16,
but ODFW decided coyotes
were responsible in that case.
Oregon Department of Agriculture, Plant Program,
Administrative Rules Chapter #603,
Sue Gooch, Rules Coordinator, (503) 986-4583.
Adopt: 603-054-0014 and Amend: 603-054-0016,
603-054-0017, 603-054-0018.
RULE SUMMARY: Nursery license fees were last adjusted in 2014. This
proposed rule would adjust the nursery license fee depending on each
nursery license type. License fee increases are needed to cover an
existing program budget deficit and to adjust for future inflation. For
license fees for Dealers, Florists and Landscape Contractors, as well as,
Greenhouse Growers of Herbaceous Plants the base rate would
increase from $129 to $148 (15%) and the millage rates would
increase by 8%. For license fees for Nursery Stock Growers and
Collectors of Native Plants the base rate would increase from $129 to
$148 (15%) and the millage rate would increase by 18%. The license
fee increase for Nursery Stock Growers and Collectors of Native Plants
is higher than the other two license types so that the department can
recover all costs associated with providing services to these nurseries.
In addition, definitions will be added to nursery license fee schedules
for clarification. The following is an example of how fee increases are
calculated for Nursery Stock Growers and Collectors of Native Plants: If
gross sales are up to $20,000 the current fee is $129, proposed new fee
formula: 15% x $129 = $148; $20,001 - $100,000 current fee is $129
plus .0040 over $20,000, proposed new fee formula: $148 + [(.004 x
18%) x ($100,000 - $20,001)]= $526; $100,001 - $200,000, current fee:
$449 plus .0037 over $100,000, proposed new fee formula: $526 +
[(.0037 x 18%) x ($200,000 -$100,001)] = $963. Hearing date: April 8,
2016 at 10:00 a.m. Location: Oregon Department of Agriculture,
Conference Room D, 635 Capitol St NE, Salem, OR 97301. Last day for
public comment is April 15, 2016.
A dead sheep found March
25 in Wallowa County was
killed by wolves, according
to Oregon Department of Fish
and Wildlife.
A range rider found a dead
adult ram in a private pasture
in the county’s Upper Swamp
Creek area.
The sheep appeared to
have been killed that morn-
ing, according to an ODFW
depredation report. A “sig-
nifi cant portion” of the sheep
had been eaten, but bite marks
and other signs confi rmed that
wolves were responsible, ac-
cording to the report. Signals
from two GPS collars showed
that Imnaha Pack wolves
OR-4 and OR-39 were within
500 yards of the carcass site at
3 a.m. and 6 a.m., according
to the report.