When you hear the word California, what comes to mind? Some people think Hollywood. They picture bright lights and celebrities. They see expensive cars trailing down Rodeo Drive, and lavish parties in Los Angeles night clubs. Others think of sunshine and blue waters. Surfers catching big waves down in Surf City USA, Huntington Beach. What most people do not envision are farmers. They don’t think of the dirt roads and cattle ranches. They don’t think of the farm hands who, for generations, have worked to feed the rest of the nation. The agricultural industry in California is huge, however the bureaucrats in Sacramento have been slowly chipping away at the already fragile state of agricultural business in California. AB 1066, authored by Democrat Assemblywoman, Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), passed through the California State Senate on August 22nd. This new piece of legislation essentially does the opposite of its purpose and actually hurts farms and farmers in the long run.
According to the California Farm Bureau, AB 1066 “contains the exact language of AB 2757”–a bill proposed in the past that was struck down by California legislators. The new regulations that the state of California seeks to impose on the agricultural industry includes:
- Phasing in a requirement (over a four-year period) that overtime pay be paid to farm workers after 8 hours of work in one day or 40 hours in one week;
- Requiring workers to take one day off every seven days;
- Delaying the implementation of the new overtime rules for small employers by two years; and
- Giving the Governor the authority to postpone a scheduled overtime pay increase if employment in California is declining.
- It will force farmers to cut back workers’ hours and, in turn, limit their earning potential;
- Smaller agricultural businesses will not be able to compete with larger businesses that can absorb the new costs; and
- Workers will be forced to take a day off for every 7 days of work which could mean a loss in potential earning and productivity in crucial harvesting seasons.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, in the year of 2014, California’s farms and ranches received $54 billion in output, and $21 billion of that chunk is attributed to the export of California’s goods. Agriculture plays a huge role in the economy of California, which is why it is important to promote common sense, which translates to: free market principles concerning business legislation. The opportunity lies not solely in profit but in improving the lives of Californians and Americans nationwide. If California would only return decision-making back to the farmers and farm workers, the market would produce a solution benefiting all. In a perfect world, if Sacramento would deregulate the agricultural industry: workers’ earning potentials would not be limited, smaller farmers would be able to compete, food prices would drop as a result of limited regulations and competition, and the world would have access to a broader range of produce.
The choice is clear: regulation is not the solution. AB 1066 will do more harm to the agricultural business than help. Its language may perpetuate an attitude of common sense and protection of the worker, but I would urge Californians to remember the words of Economist Milton Friedman: “Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.” This is not an issue of human rights or social justice, it is an issue of who is in charge. It concerns questions like, “Who picks the winners and the losers?” and “Who decides how we the people wish to conduct our business?” The answer to what should be done next is clear to some, but as for now, the decision falls in the hands of the California State Assembly.
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