Senator Chuck Thomsen is a Hood River pear farmer who is watching the Legislature roll-out Ag destroying bills with no concern for the average family farmer. Thomsen explains that non-farmer lawmakers treat farming as it were a big businesses in a steady stream of annual profits. That is not the world of agriculture.
For instance, the Northwest is experiencing a record apple crop. The flush of apple crops has caused the price to plummet to less than $10 a box. That price doesn’t even cover operating costs. For the apple farmer, 2015, is a lost year. Now consider how an Oregon apple farmer who is losing money is expected to pay for the skyrocketing costs of the 7-Day Paid Sick Leave & $15 minimum wage bills. It is compiling a painful cost upon a disastrous loss.
Thomsen further explained that when he sells his pears to Wal-Mart that he cannot pass the price-hike unto Wal-Mart because supermarket chains only buy & sell what the market will bear. Middle class consumers are not willing to pay double for their produce. Wal-Mart can’t sell what people won’t buy. The loss is borne by the family farmer and their workers — not business.
The obliviousness to family farmers was evident during the 7-day paid sick leave hearing. Senator Thomsen educated the committee that the bill had no consideration for seasonal workers which is a mainstay in agriculture. Sometimes workers will help one farm for a few weeks during peak harvest and then switch to another later and return again a few weeks later. This would be a logistical mess for implementing a 7-day paid sick leave law when agricultural workers routinely switch employers.
Senator Thomsen said, “State government has no business trying to control the private marketplace. They do not belong. We are a free market economy and not a government economy. The state is trying to regulate a market that it does not understand nor does it cares about.”
Postscript: The committee and later the Legislature passed out the law without agriculture protection recommended by Thomsen.