After a gruesome 6-hour debate, the Oregon senate passed a bill that will increase the minimum wage by geographical sectors. The bill was later signed by Governor Kate Brown and could give Oregon the highest minimum wage in the country by 2022.
Over the course of 6 years hourly wages will increase to $14.75 in the Urban Growth area, $13.50 in mid size communities (Region 2), and $12.50 in rural parts of the state (Region 1). Oregon is the first state to have a geographic minimum wage. Yamhill, Marion, and Clackamas counties are included in Region 2.
In a study done by Oregon Public Broadcasting, they found Oregonians were split down the middle on whether or not they approved. Those in favor believe it will benefit Oregon families, stating the current minimum wage is not enough to live on, especially with increased living costs in Portland. In contrast, others are concerned what it means for businesses and their employees, perhaps a loss of jobs due to increased costs.
The wage raise will harm agriculture, causing farmers to cut costs by reducing labor, along with the difficulties of finding qualified workers. However, it could force farmers to look for innovative ways for efficient farming.
Starting July 1st there will be a statewide minimum wage increase by 50 cents. Already Republicans and Democrats are thinking of changing the law by coming up with lower wages for trainees and high school workers, but also tailoring it so it doesn’t harm older employees who are providing for their families. This comes with the concern of farmers using is as a loophole to pay seasonal employees.
Some representatives are asking for policy cushions or challenging the bill. For example, creating a cushion on the Idaho border to save those communities. It is unclear which counties will be successful in their challenges, but musings are coming from Yamhill and Lane counties. Farmers should start preparing for the increases now to allow for an easy transition. What are your methods for reducing costs and improving efficiency? We would love to hear them.