Thanks to the Democrats in the Oregon Legislature………
Oregon House Democrats pass HB 4002, ignore consequences to family farms SALEM, ORE., 02 MAR. 2022 — After several hours of debate, Oregon House Democrats dealt a death blow to huge swaths of the state’s beloved farm and ranch economy yesterday with passage of HB 4002 on a party-line vote. House Democrats forced through an unworkable agricultural overtime system in Oregon, despite the testimony and input of hundreds of farmers and ranchers, an independent economic study, and information from California and Washington all pointing to the devastating harm it will cause.
Legislators debated HB 4002 for about three hours before passage. Republican legislators offered several alternative solutions throughout the process that would have created a higher hourly threshold, accounted for unique harvesting and seasonal demands of agriculture, and provided farmworkers with overtime payments through the establishment of a worker relief fund. These solutions, including the -A10 amendment, were not given thoughtful consideration by the bill’s proponents, jeopardizing the future of Oregon’s agricultural sector, and creating uncertainty for thousands of farmworkers.
“The -A10 amendments to HB 4002 meet the goals of the proponents of overtime pay after 40 hours, and the goals of the agricultural industry for higher thresholds to ensure that family-scale agriculture remains viable in Oregon,” said Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis (R-Albany) as she asked the chamber to consider her alternative proposal. “It is the only solution offered that will protect farmworker jobs, result in more money in farmworker pockets, and help keep our family farms intact.”
Roughly 96% of Oregon’s farms are small, locally, or family-owned operations. The testimony highlighted concerns that this policy would catalyze emerging patterns leading to the corporatization and sale of farms to out-of-state entities. Data cited from an Oregon State Analysis showed that Oregon lost 1,200 of its small and mid-sized farms between 2012 to 2017, and with the passage of HB 4002, many fear a more pronounced transition.
Perhaps most egregious is the proponents’ characterization of the tax credit mechanism outlined in HB 4002. As drafted, the tax credit defies rational logic by decreasing the percentage a farm is eligible to be reimbursed for as their overtime costs increase. Make no mistake, this tax credit is not guaranteed to farms who must incur the costs of paying overtime and wait for nearly two years to see if they receive the credit. This system presumes that farms, operating on razor-thin margins, will trust in the state’s lottery system to ensure their business isn’t operating in the red.
“I’ve never seen so much data, such well-reasoned and impassioned testimony, and such a clear path to a better solution ignored like House Democrats did yesterday,” said Oregon Association of Nurseries Executive Director Jeff Stone. “No legislator who voted for this bill can ever say with a straight face that they care about farm and ranch families. They heard with crystal clarity what they were doing to family agriculture and ag employees, and they did it anyway.”
Oregon’s Coalition of Agricultural Organizations represents a diverse array of farming operations and agricultural commodities and was formed in response to the legislature’s proposal to require farmers to pay workers 1.5 times regular pay for all hours worked over 40.