With lawsuits filed and more pending against dairies across Washington for retroactive overtime from the past three years, more and more concern is starting to mount regarding the long-term impact these suits could have on the state’s farm industry. Kalama area Representative Ed Orcutt said while some may see this issue as one that only impacts central and eastern Washington producers, he disagrees. He said labor is an issue for farms, large and small a like on both sides of the Cascades.
“You know, we need to protect our farmers. In fact, we hear about wanting to preserve farmland. The best way to preserve farmland is make sure that our farmers are able to remain viable. And lawsuits like this are the very thing that could sink a lot of farms.”
Once those lawsuits are successful and farmers go out of business, often the best use of that property becomes homes, streets and other commercial development.
“It’s not the route that we want to see our farms go. We want to continue to see our farms be productive to feed the people of Washington state, the United States and quite frankly the world.”
Currently roughly two dozen suits regarding retroactive back pay have been filed in Washington, targeting mainly central and southern Washington dairies. But the concern is these suits could spread statewide, or to other commodities, such as tree fruit.
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