Two weeks ago, representatives of Oregon passed a bill that would raise the state’s already high minimum wage to one of the highest in the country. Today, Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill into law. Under the plan, different minimum wages would go into effect in different parts of the state, based on population density. The plan will hike minimum wage to $14.75 in the densest areas of the state, $13.50 in mid-size counties, and $12.50 in more rural areas of Oregon by 2022. This three-tiered plan is expected to make some waves across the state but not all have been received positively.
46 farmers, onion processors, and small business owners traveled 400 miles last month to Salem, Oregon, to speak to lawmakers about the impact this plan will have on agriculture in Oregon. Leaders, from rural Malheur County, voiced concerns that a wage increase to $12.50 would hinder its agricultural industry, which competes against Idaho farmers and processors just across the state border. With only a $7.25 minimum wage, Idaho might become more attractive to those in the agriculture sector, causing local businesses to leave the state.
The minimum wage increase will also have a major impact on Oregon fruit growers, according to Jean Godfrey, executive director of the Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers Association, which represents 440 cherry, apple, and pear growers in Oregon. The group’s region is expected to fall in the mid-size county range and will experience the $13.50 minimum wage rate by 2022. To put in perspective the magnitude of that change, a $13.50 minimum wage for one producer’s 150-acre orchard would cost that producer approximately an additional $150,000.00 annually in wages. This can be crippling for producers such as those that belong to the Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers Association because, unlike retail businesses, the agriculture industry cannot pass on increased prices to consumers.
*Code U. 995