Overtime Legislation Clears Oregon House
On a party-line vote this week, the Oregon House passed legislation removing the overtime exemption for the state’s farming community. Despite testimony and input from hundreds of farmers and ranchers across the state, the House Bill 4002 was approved by lawmakers Tuesday. The Oregon farming community called the proposal unworkable for the agriculture system in the state.
Republican legislators said they offered several alternative solutions throughout the process that would have created a higher hourly threshold, as well as accounting for harvesting and seasonal demands. The GOP said 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 Representative 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.
“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.”
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