Agriculture faces host of new state laws in California
Farmers and ranchers will find themselves subject to new laws in
2022 that will raise wages, redefine animals' living
arrangements and allow ranchers better access to livestock in
Effective Jan. 1, California's minimum wage rises to $15 per
hour for employers with 26 or more employees at any time in a
pay period. Those employing 25 or fewer people at all times in a
pay period will see the minimum wage rise to $14 per hour in
2022 and to $15 in 2023.
Employers of 26 or more people will also owe overtime pay to
agricultural employees after working eight hours in a workday or
40 hours in a workweek. Those employees will be owed time and a
half for work after eight and up to 12 hours in a day, and
double time after 12 hours.
For the first time, employers of 25 or fewer people will be
subject to the law phasing in lower overtime thresholds for
agricultural employees. Those smaller employers will owe them
overtime pay after 9½ hours worked in a workday or 55 hours in a
workweek. The overtime limits will ratchet down over the next
few years for smaller employers until they reach eight hours in
a workday or 40 in a workweek, plus double time after 12 hours
in a workday, on Jan. 1, 2025.
The overtime changes are the result of Assembly Bill 1066,
authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and
enacted in 2016.
The state also is making changes to cannabis regulation. The
California Department of Food and Agriculture had been sharing
responsibility for regulating cannabis with the Department of
Consumer Affairs and the Department of Public Health. A new
Department of Cannabis Control will now be in charge.
This change will affect agriculture's relationship with
marijuana growers, said Taylor Roschen, a California Farm Bureau
policy advocate. When CDFA had a role, she said, "we were able
to share the challenges of the ag sector and its relationship
with cannabis with an audience that understood the ag components
of it," such as "pesticide use, or right to farm, or water
availability and weed control."
"It's going to be interesting to see as things transition over
to a new agency that doesn't really have agriculture as part of
its charge, whether or not they'll be welcoming the questions
about how conventional agriculture and cannabis work together
and conflict," Roschen said.
Livestock producers in California will see more limits on animal
housing as a result of Proposition 12, which passed with nearly
63% of the vote in 2018.
As of Jan. 1, Proposition 12 will require breeding pigs and
their offspring to have at least 24 square feet of space per
pig. Egg-laying hens must be in cage-free housing, whether
indoors or out, that meets guidelines set by the United Egg
Producers in 2017. The guidelines define cage-free housing as 1
to 1½ square feet of usable floor space per hen and allowing
hens to move around.
The proposition also bans the sale of veal from calves, pork
from breeding pigs, and eggs from hens whose housing doesn't
meet the proposition's minimum standards. A coalition of
restaurant groups and chambers of commerce have sued, asking for
a delay in enforcement due to a lack of rulemaking by the state.
Farm Bureau policy advocate Katie Little submitted comments to
CDFA concerning the proposition's effects on students in 4-H,
FFA and similar educational programs. Little noted the
proposition states it "shall not apply … during rodeo
exhibitions, state or county fair exhibitions, 4-H programs and
Little said agricultural groups had reached out with concerns
about buyers of such animals having to abide by Proposition 12.
"We have provided comments to urge the clarification, and
ultimate exemption, of Prop. 12 for 4-H and similar agricultural
education programs," Little said. "These programs are a gateway
for many into the agricultural industry. But, if processors are
unable to process these custom animals, this niche market could
ultimately fade away."
Under a Farm Bureau-sponsored bill, livestock producers will
have expanded access to mobile slaughter operations. AB 888 by
Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Marin, allows mobile slaughter
operators to handle sheep, goats, pigs and cattle on private
ranches. Meat processed in such fashion cannot be sold
commercially under the law.
Little said she's interested in hearing from ranchers on how the
law is working and whether changes are needed.
"We want to make sure that we keep those costs down, and so
we'll work through the regulatory process to make sure that that
stays accessible," Little said.
Farmers and ranchers who need to check on livestock during
evacuations prompted by wildfires and other disasters will have
an easier time doing so thanks to AB 1103 by Assemblywoman Megan
Dahle, R-Bieber. The law sets up an Ag Pass program allowing
ranchers to get through road closures to look after their
animals and evacuate them if necessary.
Those engaged in prescribed burns intended to reduce fuel loads
will have some liability protection with the enactment of Senate
Bill 332 by Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa. The law provides that "burn
bosses" will not be liable for fire-suppression costs arising
from prescribed burns that get away, provided that the burn's
objective is wildland fuel reduction or ecological maintenance
and restoration, and gross negligence is not involved.
(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant
editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.
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