Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has signed a bill into law that phases out the state’s agricultural overtime pay exemption.

The Capital Press reported Brown wrote in a letter on Friday to Senate President Peter Courtney and Speaker of the House Dan Rayfield that she views this bill as an important step in the right direction, to correct a historic wrong.

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a woman carries three large buckets filled with blueberries in a field while other workers pick berries in the background.

Farmworkers preparing the blueberries they picked in a farm in Albany to get them weighed and ready to ship to a pack house on June 28, 2021.

Monica Samayoa / OPB

“This policy will make a significant difference in the lives of farmworkers and their families," Brown wrote.

The new law establishes overtime pay requirements for agricultural workers in the state after 40 hours per week, with the requirements phased in over five years starting in 2023.

Under the law, farmworkers will be owed time-and-a-half overtime wages after 55 weekly hours of work next year, after 48 hours of work in 2025-2026 and then after 40 hours per week beginning in 2027.

Most farmers will be eligible for one of three tiers of tax credits, depending on how many people they employ. Tax credits will incrementally decline between 2023 and 2028 and then will end or be re-evaluated by lawmakers.

Brown wrote that the law may need to be changed and improved over time, so she said it’s important that conversation about the issue continue.

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