For California farmers, recent decisions by the state’s legislative and executive branches of government, including Governor Brown’s recent ‘John Hancock’ on the $15 per hour minimum wage and ag overtime legislation will make it H-A-R-D-E-R for them to economically remain in business in the nation’s No. 1 farming state.
It may also be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some farmers who have been teeter tottering on the fence on whether to pack their bags and move to a more farming-friendly state. Governor Moonbeam’s pen strokes may now shove them to move.
Following the governor’s signature of the ag overtime law on Sept. 12, supported by the United Farm Workers, a succinct response statement from the California Cotton Growers and Ginners Association said it all – “The message is clear. California simply doesn’t care,” said the group’s CEO Roger Isom.
Anti-agriculture sentiment in California has been building for years, generated by all three branches of California government – legislative, executive, and judicial – including outrageous legal smelt interpretations and convoluted decision making.
The end result has created an environment where a growing number of farmers, based on the economics of farming and the impact of stringent state regulations, can no longer afford to farm on the Left Coast.
Some farmers have cautiously weighed their options, as any good business person would. Some suggest shifting towards 100 percent mechanization can help survival. Ironically such a move would reduce the number of farmworker jobs – the opposite of what Gov. Brown wants.
A growing number of producers are looking at ‘greener pastures’ elsewhere. Governors from other states continue to discuss their states’ pro-agriculture environment. Perhaps Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa would give them the shirt off his back to move to the Hawkeye State, the nation’s current No. 2 farming state with dreams of replacing California in the No. 1 spot.
It’s time for California government to walk the talk, and create an environment where agriculture – a $50-plus billion industry – can thrive with a partnering government.
For now, California continues on a collision course where more growers may buy a one-way ticket to another state. California, as a whole, would be the loser.