The Oklahoma Farm Bureau Legal Foundation joined efforts with The State Chamber to file a protest with the state’s highest court Monday, Nov. 20 against Initiative Petition 446, which would establish a state question to raise Oklahoma’s minimum wage.
The initiative seeks to double the minimum wage by 2029 and increase it annually beginning in 2030 based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. This change would remove the responsibility of determining a minimum wage from the Oklahoma legislature and instead tie it to national economic projections that do not accurately reflect Oklahoma’s economy.
“Taking a closer look at the CPI reveals it excludes all of rural Oklahoma,” said Steve Thompson, OKFB vice president of public policy. “One of our primary concerns is how the buying power of rural Oklahomans could be affected by an index that does not consider the unique needs of rural life.”
Statistics show many employers in rural Oklahoma already pay above the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour with an average hourly wage of $16.41. By tying the minimum wage to the urban CPI, around 1.3 million rural Oklahomans could experience a major negative impact, not only themselves but also in the communities in which they live and work.
If the minimum wage increases, the value of what employees currently make decreases, causing all wages to lose value. When agricultural producers are forced to increase pay, it leads to higher input costs for producers, thus increasing costs for all consumers.
“Farm Bureau members understand the importance of fair compensation for honest work as farmers and ranchers rely on dependable, hardworking individuals to ensure their agricultural operations run smoothly and efficiently,” Thompson said. “This initiative opens the door for burdensome government mandates that will only intensify the inflationary pressures Oklahomans are already facing.”
Initiative Petition 446 also takes away the exemptions Congress provided to agriculture in the Fair Labor Standards Act and instead gives unaccountable discretion to federal bureaucrats to set Oklahoma’s wages. These exemptions were put in place to address the unique nature of agricultural operations and ensure national food security.
“Production agriculture doesn’t happen on concrete and blacktop,” Thompson said. “It happens in remote areas. Removing the agricultural exemptions could lead to significant challenges to agricultural producers across the state. These farmers and ranchers not only provide the nation’s food supply but also keep local communities alive. Without them, the communities empty and so do grocery store shelves.”