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Napa Farmworker Housing Bill Signed

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed the Napa farmworker housing bill into law, the legislators who sponsored it said Tuesday.

The measure provides Napa County farmworkers 180 affordable beds in three centers run through a partnership of the county and the nonprofit California Human Development Cooperation. The centers run with an annual deficit, which the county has helped to bridge through its budget reserves. The law, known as SB-240, allows Napa’s grapegrowers to raise their annual assessment to $15 per acre, up from $10.

“Our farmworkers in Napa County couldn’t be more critical to our local economy,” said the measure’s Senate sponsor, Democrat Bill Dodd. “It is essential that our farmworkers have suitable housing. I want to thank Governor Brown and the bipartisan group of legislators who joined me to pass this law.”

The bill’s Assembly sponsor, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, said the legislation “is an important piece in the fight to support our hard-working farmworkers in Napa County. Workers living in Napa’s housing centers are at the heart of Napa’s agricultural community, and the core of our local economy.”

Tighter Immigration Affecting Wine Sector Economics

Despite rising wages and an increase in benefits, U.S. workers have not been enticed to join the agricultural labor market. That is despite Napa farmers paying $16 an hour, Los Angeles Times economy writer Natalie Kitroeff said on the financial news program “Market Place.” Immigration restrictions first tightened under President Barack Obama are growing more severe with the current administration of Donald Trump.

The California wine sector and allied businesses deliver an economic contribution of $57.6 billion annually to the state’s economy and $114.1 billion annually to the U.S. economy, according to a 2016 report commissioned by Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers.

This new law will allow grapegrowers to increase their self-assessment to meet the costs to maintain the county’s farmworker housing centers. In addition to this law, which goes into effect January 1, 2018, Dodd and Aguiar-Curry helped to secure $250,000 to support farmworker housing in Napa in the state budget that the governor signed in June.

Learn more about the labor shortage and the newly passed bill.