As another year is underway in Sonoma County vineyards are being pruned and pastures are being grazed. This time of year we hope for rainfall to recharge our groundwater and keep our fields green throughout the year. As farmers and ranchers, we attempt to strategize and plan for the future, but more often than not we adapt and change on the fly because mother nature always likes to keep us on our toes. However, unlike mother nature’s unexpected curve-balls, one thing you can always count on here in California is the promise of more laws and regulations.
This year in California hundreds of new laws will take effect. Many hundreds more than the year before and many hundreds more than the year before that. I’m sure you can and have all felt the impact of this pattern. In particular, this year minimum wage was increased again, and the agriculture overtime will begin to phase-in. We must now pay overtime after 9.5 hours worked, which will decrease 1.5 hours every year until we reach 8 hours. How will the agriculture industry adapt to this? As I talk to local employers, many who are our members from around the county, many said that they are decreasing their work days down from 10 hours. It is especially tough in agriculture when we rely on many hours to fully get the job done. However like all business owners we must always be conscious of the bottom line. Will employees greet this with open arms? My thought is no.
As I watch the rain fall on the fields today, I am reminded that the groundwater table is being recharged out in our agriculture and open space areas. This is a vital element of our natural capital and something that doesn’t occur in the city center or on pavement. I believe the GSA’s still fail to take agriculture and open spaces’ important role in recharging groundwater into account during their formation. Will agriculture receive credit? I know Farm Bureau will be at the table to make sure this continues to be a topic of discussion.
We just seem to love laws and regulations here, in fact, I bet the State of California has never met a law it didn’t like. I’ve always liked the adage that, “Everyone is connected to Agriculture because everyone eats.” Laws like these and others effect every single person in the state whether they know it or not. I only wish the politicians in Sacramento wouldn’t bite the hand that feeds them and the rest of the world.
On a positive note, I would be remiss if I did not mention the retirement of our board member Tito Sasaki. I truly enjoyed working with Tito over the years and will miss him on our board. We very much valued his breadth of knowledge on agricultural issues and tireless work ethic. Thank you, Tito.