***For Immediate Release***
NJ Farm Bureau Opposes $15 Minimum Wage Proposal – Cites Unique and Severe Impacts to Agricultural Industry
(Trenton) – New Jersey Farm Bureau, the state’s largest agricultural organization, opposes the $15 minimum wage proposal (S-15) heard in by the Senate Labor Committee today.
Farm Bureau President Ryck Suydam presented testimony as well as individual farm profiles showing the potentially devastating effects such a major increase would have on some New Jersey farms. “The immediate impacts of such a change for some farms would range from $100,000 up to $300,000,” said Suydam. “Because farmers are price-takers, not price-makers, they would be handcuffed by this – unable to pass along the state mandated cost increase.”
The impact of a large wage increase will have a greater impact on agriculture because farming is such a labor intensive business. In the farm profiles shared with the committee, the payroll share of farm expenses was 38%. A recent survey of the nursery sector of New Jersey agriculture shows that figure to be 40% of total farm expenses.
Other states, and previous New Jersey legislatures, have recognized agriculture’s uniqueness and treated the industry differently when it comes to minimum wage. “Seventeen other states have a separate agriculture minimum wage,” Suydam said, adding that most recently, New York state created a two-tier approach to their wage increase in recognition of the disproportionate impact to rural industries. The New Jersey Legislature itself provided a grant program in the 1990’s to help farmers cope with a minimum wage increase.
Suydam added, “New Jersey has a history of recognizing that farming is particularly vulnerable to certain policy initiatives and has developed special programs and rules to maintain and grow this $1.3 billion wholesale industry. This is yet another one of those situations.”
Contacts: Ben Casella or Ed Wengryn – 609-393-7163