Fruit and vegetable farmers worried about $15 minimum wage

Miller's Bay Farm

The cost of produce at your local farmers market could soon be going up.

Some Ontario fruit and vegetable farmers say the price of their produce could rise as much as 12 per cent when the government raises minimum wage in the province to $15 dollars come January 1st, 2019.

Miller's Bay Farm in Smiths Falls employs anywhere from 20 to 25 people during the Spring and Summer and by law, every employee must be paid at least minimum wage. Owner Shannon Miller said increasing salaries from $11.40 to $15 dollars will come at a significant cost. 

"We are searching for efficiencies and ways to do what we do better but at the end of the day the prices are going to have to go up," said Shannon Miller, who owns Miller's Bay Farm in Smiths Falls with her husband. 

Miller said she is not alone in her concern about what impact the hike will have on local farms. She said fruit and vegetable farms are already facing stiff competition from Mexico and even the United States where employees are paid significantly less, keeping prices low. She estimates the cost of her products, and that of many other local farms, will end up being about 12 per cent higher. 

"It's going to come down to an individual household decision about how much it is worth to you to have this safe quality of food that we grow in Ontario, Miller said. 

Opinions from economists and businesses are mixed on whether the increase to the minimum wage will help Ontario's economy.

People on both sides of the aisle will have a chance to provide their say over the next couple of weeks at public consultations organized by the province. 

A public consultation is being held in Ottawa at the downtown Courtyard Marriott on July 12th from 9:30 to 5:30. The fight for $15 Fairness is holding a rally in support of the raise outside of the hotel at noon Wednesday.