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By Vicky Boyd

Beginning Jan. 1, agricultural employers with more than 25 workers will have to pay $12 per hour minimum wage, up from $11 per hour in 2018, and it will continue to rise every year until 2022.Photo by Vicky Boyd

With the start of the new year, the agricultural industry saw changes to farmworkers’ minimum wages and overtime thresholds, both of which could further squeeze growers’ margins. Unlike some industries that can pass along higher costs to customers, growers say they can’t raise prices and typically end up absorbing the increases.

To remain competitive, many have turned to mechanization or automation to address rising labor costs.

“On the vineyard side, we’ve converted over to mechanical harvesting in preparation that labor costs were going to go up or labor wasn’t around,” said Joe Valente, a Lodi-area vineyard manager.

By Craig W. Anderson

Amy Blagg has been named the Agribusiness Person of the Year by the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce.

“Amy deserves this award, and more, for the tireless hours she commits to our community,” said Rebecca Towell, the chamber’s Agribusiness Committee chair. “Always humble and ready to lend a hand, Amy displays what makes our agricultural community so rich.”

By Craig W. Anderson

Elisabeth Watkins of Linden was named by the National 4-H Council as the winner of the 2019 4-H Youth in Action Award for Healthy Living. She will receive a $5,000 scholarship for higher education and will serve as an advocate and spokesperson for 4-H Healthy Living programming. She was chosen from 167 applicants.

“I’m excited about it and humbled at the same time about the award and the opportunity to go to school in the Midwest or South,” Elisabeth said. “It’s my time to get away and experience a different environment, people and places.” She is currently a senior at Central Catholic High School in Modesto. 

By Craig W. Anderson

Rural crime is an important issue faced by San Joaquin Farm Bureau, the county sheriff’s department, local law enforcement, farmers, ranchers and the general public. What’s happening in the county was outlined by Ezequiel “Zeke” Pena, the sheriff department’s public information officer. 

He pointed out that, “Gangs are huge currently,” and he provided a list of crimes the department is working on.