Because it's the biggest agricultural state in the U.S. and a frequent trendsetter on political and social issue, farmers across the country may want to keep their eyes on an agricultural overtime pay bill that may become law in California.

By a vote of 23-12, the State Senate on June 3 approved Senate Bill 1121 to eliminate a 69-year-old exemption for farmworkers and put them under the same overtime rules as other hourly employees in the state, thereby making them entitled to extra pay after working fewer hours than is currently the case. The measure must next be voted upon by the State Legislature, where passage is also expected. It then would go to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for final approval.

Currently, farmworkers in California are eligible for overtime pay if they work more than 10 hours in a workday or more than 60 hours in a workweek. However, existing law for other hourly workers defines overtime as more than 8 hours in a workday or more than 40 hours in a workweek, with overtime pay rates of 50 percent and 100 percent depending upon the specific situation.

Nearly 20 attorney and union organizations support the change. More than two dozen ag and ag-related organizations oppose it, noting that California already has the nation's most progressive labor protections for agricultural production, and no other state currently requires overtime once agricultural workers have exceeded a 40-hour workweek.

An analysis of the bill can be seen here.