Roger Isom: Probable Electric Rate Hikes Raise Concern for Ag

California Agriculture Concerned Over PG&E Increases, Overtime Rules

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

Water, labor, and air quality issues in California keep growers’ plates full of challenges, but with probable PG&E rate increases in the future, it seems they can’t catch a break. Roger Isom, President and CEO of the Western Agriculture Processors Association and California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, is among those wondering how the industry is going to compete.

“We’ve been paying for a lot of those safety upgrades. What happened? I mean, we’ve got to let the investigation take place, but to saddle rate payers with that amount of money, we just can’t do it,” Isom said of the threat of rate increases.

Roger Isom, president and CEO, Western Processors Association
Roger Isom, president and CEO, Western Processors Association (source: LinkedIn)

At the same time, the industry is still battling the effects of the Brown administration’s ruling on overtime.

“There are farm workers in 45 states that could work 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and never trigger overtime. We have to compete with that, and that’s just unacceptable,” Isom said.

Isom is optimistic about new appointments in California administration, though.

“You’ve got Jared Blumenfeld, who’s the new CalEPA Secretary. He was actually extremely helpful over there when we were working on incentives for replacing pumps and tractors,” Isom explained.

Isom also gave credits to Wade Crowfoot, who was on the previous administration and helped with port shutdowns.

“He’s going to hit up resources, which obviously with the water situation is a very critical agency for us. Seeing somebody over there that could be helpful is important,” he said.

California Fresh Fruit Association: Top Issues in 2019

Immigration and Labor Cost are Big Issues

News Release

The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) recently announced their Top Issues for 2019. Members were surveyed in December 2018 and ranked the top issues for CFFA to concentrate on in 2019.

George Rodanovich

President of the California Fresh Fruit Association, George Radanovich, stated “As in years past, our membership has given us strong direction in identifying their top priorities for 2019. The issues of labor, water, and food safety, will lead our list of issues. CFFA will continue to serve as the primary liaison between regulatory and legislative authorities by acting as the unified voice for our members on these and many other issues.”

Here are the results:

1) Federal Immigration Policies Addressing Current and Future Labor Force

2) Increasing Wage Costs (Base Wages/OT Thresholds)

3) Water Supply Availability and Curtailment

4) Immigration Enforcement (ICE)

5) Groundwater Management Requirements (S.G.M.A.)

6) Labor Regulatory Compliance

7) Water Quality Requirements and Clean Drinking Water Liability

8) Federal and State Food Safety Compliance Requirements

9) Health Care Costs (Policy Costs/Paid Sick Leave)

10)  Plant Health Materials (Pesticide, Herbicides, Fungicides, etc.)

As always, it will be the Association’s goal to work on behalf of its members to address these issues and many more, in an effort to create a better working environment for their businesses.

Agriculture Labor Relations Board Carries Strong Bias, Expert Says

Michael Saqui: UFW and ALRB Are In Bed Together

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

The Agriculture Labor Relations Board (ALRB), initially created by the Agricultural Relations Act, is a group designed to adhere to the well-being of farm workers. However, Michael Saqui, principal at the Saqui Law Group, carries a strong opinion in regards to this group. Saqui is an employer’s attorney on wage and hour, wrongful termination, labor relations, and employment litigation, just to name a few.

According to Saqui, “The ALRB has been set up for and by the United Farm Workers since its inception, and it continues more open today. In fact, they do less hiding of their bias than they have ever before … They’re emboldened by the fact that they are so unfair, and they almost dare you like most in the agricultural industry.”

Initially, the history of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act involved a great amount of grower input. When the UFW or any other farm union files a petition for representation, the election used to occur within seven days; however, producers pushed that it be changed to 48 hours.

“That was something proposed by the growers because they didn’t want crops rotting in the fields,” Saqui said.

“I practice before [ALRB] every week, and it’s surprising that farmers don’t sit on the board as they should.”

Call for Action to Oppose Overtime Bill AB 1066

Overtime Bill AB 1066 Needs Immediate Opposition

By Laurie Greene, Editor

California Assembly Bill (AB) 1066 to change overtime requirements for agricultural workers is returning as a “gut and amend”* measure scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee on June 29, 2016. Emily Rooney, president of the Agricultural Council of California (Ag Council), is urging the agricultural industry to tell the State Senate TODAY how this bill would hurt farmworker wages.

California Senate SealCalifornia already requires agricultural employers to provide overtime pay to farmworkers after they work 10 hours in one day and 60 hours in one week, which recognizes the flexibility that farmers and employees need given the variable nature of farming and seasonal labor. Authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), AB 1066, phases in a new overtime wage law requiring California farmers to pay agricultural workers overtime after eight hours in one day or 40 hours in one week by the year 2022.

Rooney says AB 1066 adds an unnecessary regulatory burden on the agricultural industry, and, combined with the recently passed $15 minimum wage law, makes it difficult for farmers in the state to remain competitive. “We do need six democrats to vote with us to oppose the bill, which will be a challenge,” said Rooney. “The Senate is left of center, at least compared to the Assembly, but we are working very hard to secure those votes and just hope that the bill doesn’t get back to the Assembly.”

Rooney said the Assembly killed a similar bill earlier this month. “It is very disappointing that the bill has been repackaged and presented to the Senate as a gut and amend bill, AB 1066,” she said. “The new bill was basically reintroduced less than two weeks after we defeated it in the Assembly.”

agricultural-council-of-california-logo140Rooney stressed the importance that the Senate not approve AB 1066, because should the Senate approve it, the bill would go back to the Assembly because both houses are needed to pass the bill. “And while the earlier bill failed in the Assembly, we are not sure that it would fail again,” she said.

There are Assembly legislators who voted against it before, who are willing to vote against it again, said Rooney, “but the timing of it is really unfortunate. We expect that while the legislators are on summer recess in July, they may have time to build up support for the bill. It’s the end of session, and we have a number of challenges to defeat the bill; but we are hopeful that if the California Senate does not defeat it, the Assembly will,” said Rooney.


Rooney suggested those who oppose AB 1066 go to the post, “Oppose Gut & Amend Legislation to Change Ag Overtime Wage Requirements” on the Ag Council Action Center webpage“to easily send an opposition letter to their state legislator.


*GUT AND AMEND, according to the California State Legislature Glossary of Legislative Terms describes when amendments to a bill remove the current contents in their entirety and replace them with different provisions.


Featured Photo:   Emily Rooney, president Agricultural Council of California