The California Agriculture Department is shutting down the country’s largest farms and the farmers who run them, saying the boycott has become an “anxiety crisis.”
The announcement comes days after the state’s agriculture department and the California Farm Bureau Federation filed suit against the state and its agricultural watchdog over the new farm worker law, which requires employers to pay overtime for workers who work more than 25 hours per week.
In its suit, the CAF said the new law violates the First Amendment rights of employees and businesses, and would likely lead to increased retaliation and job losses for workers.
“We cannot continue to allow the CAFOB to unilaterally enforce a discriminatory and unlawful law without proper judicial review,” the suit said.
The state’s agricultural commissioner and the CAFA said in a statement the new rule “will result in increased uncertainty for our farmers and producers.”
The state of California, which has the fourth-highest number of agricultural workers in the nation, is one of the first to enact the new rules, but some other states have also passed similar laws, according to the suit.
The CAF also criticized the federal government for the “insulting” and “demeaning” way in which it has handled the situation.
“While we are disappointed by the federal response to this crisis, we do not believe the federal law was written for this situation,” the lawsuit said.
“The CAFOD’s decision to close the farms and shut down the CAFS farm program is in direct response to the growing and increasingly alarming threat of retaliation from CAFO employees and business owners who do not want to work under these rules.”
California’s agricultural workers have staged strikes and boycotts in the past.
A California Farm Workers’ Coalition petitioned the Trump administration to allow workers to join a new labor union that would include farmers and ranchers in January.