Minimum wage hike could hurt farms

SAN DIEGO - Opponents to San Diego's minimum wage increase are planning their next move.

The business community and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce will likely meet this week to talk about their options. A referendum to get the issue onto the ballot is a consideration.
 "That's obviously one of the things that we'll be thinking about," Chamber President Jerry Sanders said.
In order to get a referendum, opponents would have to collect 34,000 signatures in 30 days.

Frank Konyn is not one of the estimated 200,000 people that would benefit from the wage hike. He runs a dairy farm in the San Pasqual Valley. Even though his farm is 30 miles from downtown San Diego, the land is owned by the city.
"Although there are corporate businesses in San Diego that will be affected by this, there are also family businesses," Konyn said.

His family has operated the dairy farm for 52 years. Konyn isn't against raising the minimum wage, but he wants the playing field to be level.

"When the city of San Diego does it in just the city, and the city boundaries creep out into little remote areas like me, I can be forced to pay a different minimum wage than somebody that we can see right over there across the valley," Konyn said.

The father of three said he already pays his 19 employees above minimum wage, but in order to compete, he'll have to pay them even more.

"Even though it's only affecting minimum wage, I need to stay above minimum wage to attract skilled labor," Konyn said.

Unlike other business owners, farmers cannot raise prices.

"The bottom line will cost me, I roughly calculate, it will cost me an extra $120,000 a year. In the type of business that I'm in, that may be the entire profit, including my salary."

If the ordinance isn't overturned, he said he'll have to reinvent himself and create a niche market.

"Conceivably, I'd be with a lot less animals. With a lot less animals, I'd be with a lot less employees."

Farmers in the Tijuana River Valley would also take a hit.

"Our areas are both extremes of the city of San Diego limits. So often the people making the rules and regulations see the central core, but they don't have a good understanding of what's happening in the extremities."

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