Tax credit ideas aims to balance Ag overtime bill

By Natural Resource News Note,

Oregon farmers could go bankrupt if the state Legislature approves a measure to require overtime pay for ag workers.

The hotly contested measure, House Bill 4002, was referred to the House Revenue Committee because it offers tax credits to help farmers offset the increased costs of implanting the bill’s requirements.

Farmers have been testifying that agricultural laborers must work longer hours during busy seasons to harvest crops which is a labor intensive and deadline driven industry period.  The bill’s sponsors say this measure extends to ag workers the rights granted to most hourly employees who receive overtime pay after toiling for 40 hours in a week.

Republicans offered an amendment requiring farmers to pay overtime after working 50 hours a week, not 40, except during the peak labor period—22 weeks when farmers wouldn’t be required to pay overtime until after an employee worked 60 hours a week.

Democrats insisted such an amendment, which failed to pass, would negate the entire purpose of the bill. Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, who sponsored the bill, said it attempts to rectify an oversight in The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that exempted farmworkers from federal overtime pay.

Republican and farmer Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis of Albany said requiring overtime could drive farmers out of business, forcing them to sell to large corporations.

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