Farmer Focus: California at war over minimum farm wage

The state of California has constantly been at war – with the agricultural community pitted against politicians, environmentalists and the government.

Just last year, it was voted that the state minimum wage would rapidly increase to $16 over the next few years.

Currently in California, agriculture employees work a standard 60-hour week and do not receive overtime pay until they work more than 10 hours a day or 60 hours a week.

Whereas non-agriculture employees receive overtime pay at 40 hours a week or eight hours a day.

It was recently brought to the governor, asking him to transition farm overtime rates to the same as non-agriculture rates.

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Farmers were outraged. Farming is so hard here, as it is everywhere in the world today.

The purpose of a longer work day is so that farmers can keep the cost of food down for all to enjoy and benefit.

The agriculture community cried out, given that farmers could not afford to pay these sky-rocketing prices. Employees would be on the losing end through working shorter days and receiving less pay. It would also hurt the farmer, as we don’t actually get to add the price to our goods, as many market prices are determined for the farmer.

Where my family farm in California there are many obstacles against us every day. Hopefully this law is not passed as it will soon spread throughout.

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About 10 days ago we finished putting up the last of our silage.

This year’s total is near 4,500t of grass, oat, rye and triticale silage, primarily stored in a cement and rock storage pit to feed our cattle throughout the next year.

One thousand tonnes is stored on a distant ranch in white silage bags. This ranch is too far for the harvest trucks to travel to our house, so it is bagged on the property and hauled every three days in a 40ft trailer to our home dairy site until the silage is completed.

In total we harvested feed from five ranches and about 500 acres. Ninety acres of that land is going to get a second cutting of ryegrass hay in the next month.

Our dairy cattle nutritionist was on site for a visit last week and took a sample of the curing feed for analysis and to make ration adjustments.

Jessica McIsaac milks 350 pedigree Holsteins in Petaluma, California, with her husband Neil. They sell organic milk and also have 6,000 laying hens.