Local farmers pushing for minimum wage exemption
SALISBURY, Md. – Local business advocates are putting farmers at the forefront of their agenda this summer.
“We took care of the restaurant tip workers, but agriculture was not exempted from the erroneous new wage increase,” exclaims Bill Chambers of Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce.
Despite a lot of local opposition, this year Maryland’s General Assembly passed a bill that will gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2025.
It’s a move that will drastically affect the agriculture industry here on the shore. It’s an industry that relies on labor, help that many won’t be able to afford if something doesn’t change.
Local farmer Charles Wright explains, “Last year it went up $10.10 in July and just that couple months cost us 8 grand.”
And with increases set to be implemented yearly, it’s a cost many farmers won’t be able to absorb.
“It’s hard to and in some of the cases impossible to incur a 30 percent increase of cost into a business when labor is one of your highest expenses.”
That’s the why the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce and local farmers like Wright are hoping to get an agriculture exemption from the state’s new $15 minimum wage increase.
Chambers says, “We need to take a hard look at this, not only our delegation but everyone in Annapolis. This is serious. Wicomico County is number one in agriculture in the state of Maryland, we have even more to lose.”
Because if an exemption isn’t put into place for farmers, many will be forced to make some unwanted changes.
Wright explains, “What we’re going to do is transition away from crops that require a lot of labor and just not grow them so the people that have had a job probably won’t have a job.”
We’re told the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce will be working on getting some legislation introduced next year in the Maryland General Assembly to address this issue.
They’re going to meet with the eastern shore delegation and politicians across the bridge to try and get it done.