4 CapitalPress.com April 1, 2016 Calif. wage hike could force farm mechanization By TIM HEARDEN Capital Press SACRAMENTO — Pro- 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- sociation. “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 policy. “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 service. 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 said. 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 AP. U.S. honey production falls following big year By CAROL RYAN DUMAS 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 Association. 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 200 (Millions of pounds) 178.2 154.9 150 156.5 million pounds; down 12.2% from 2014 100 2006 2015 Source: USDA NASS 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 colonies. 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 colony. 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 continue enforcement, WAFLA warns By DAN WHEAT 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- downs. 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- spections. 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 By ERIC MORTENSON Capital Press DRIFT PROBLEMS? 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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. SECRETARY OF STATE NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING HEARING 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. 14-2/#4 ROP-32-52-2/#17 ROP-14-5-1/#24 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.