ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — You may not think rows on the ballot have anything to do with rows of crops. But they do.
"It’s a whole lot more than a presidency," Bryan Jones said. This third-generation farmer in St. Johns County means that the election is not just about President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. He said how you vote on amendments and in state and local races impacts farming and "as an industry as a whole, we affect a lot of people."
After tourism, agriculture is the next largest industry in Florida. According to the University of Florida, agriculture has a $160 billion economic impact in the state. In St. Johns County alone, crop sales totaled more than $58 million in 2017, according to the USDA Census of Agriculture.
"That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of jobs," Jones said.
Take the minimum wage amendment on the ballot for example. Jones is opposed to it. He believes it would be a financial blow to his 1,000-acre potato and green bean farm near the St. Johns River. He said he already pays more than the minimum wage of $8:56.
"If it’s bumped up to $15, we’re not going to be able to sustain that," Jones said. "It will be one of those things that would devastate this farm. That’s the story I’m hearing from all of ag."
However, the Chairperson of the St. Johns County Democratic Party, Nell Toensmann said people on the lower wage spectrum need help.
"We’re looking at a gradual increase. We’re not looking at next year it’ll be $15," she said.
Toensmann said not all businesses share the wealth with the employees and this would help do that.
"It can be a little more of a strain to pay a higher wage, but some of the places that have done it, it’s worked out," she added.
However, Jones said raising the minimum wage would shut down businesses that employ people to begin with.
He also encourages people to learn where candidates stand on agricultural issues.
Ultimately, Jones urges voters to not think red or blue, but to think green as in green beans from his farm to your table.... and the best way to get them there for all involved.