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Grower says min. wage hike would raise consumer costs and automation

An Oregon farmer who leads an asset management firm says an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15-dollars an hour in the U.S. would be absorbed by producers until they no longer could. Carl Casale, with Ospraie Management, was on an innovation forum of the AgriBusiness Council of Kansas City, “We farm in Oregon and we’re already at 15-dollars an hour for basically all of our semi-summer-permanent labor. But it’s getting to be pretty difficult.”

He cites a proposed bill in the state of Washington, “They’re going to, if passed, require all farmers in the state of Washington to go back three years and pay time-and-a-half on all wages that have already been paid. I’ll tell you right now, there’ll be a fair number of farms that don’t make it through that.”

Casale says consumer prices would have to be raised, “Particularly on the labor-intensive fresh produce and fruit, that there is no mechanical opportunity for today.” Casale says that would create an incentive to move from hand labor to automation, not by choice, by necessity. He says a higher percentage of their blueberries would have to be mechanically harvested unless someone wants to pay a premium to justify that.

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