With President Obama about to be sworn in for his second term, individuals and employers alike are thinking more seriously about a key facet of his first term: the new federal health care law, how it will be implemented and what is required to comply.

“Our membership is concerned about how this is going to affect our employees. How is this going to affect providing them what they need?” said Glenn County Farm Bureau President Dave Toney. “We also would like to know what this could cost.”

California Farm Bureau Federation Director of Labor Affairs Bryan Little said until the federal government finishes issuing regulations and guidance to implement the Affordable Care Act, and until the state of California begins accepting customers for its health insurance benefits exchange, there is no way to predict accurately what the cost will be for any individual agricultural employer.

“Everybody’s situation is going to be a little bit different. Trusted professionals like tax advisors and insurance brokers will be able to give farmers a lot of guidance. But in the end, agricultural employers will need to make some hard decisions about whether it will be cost-effective to continue providing insurance for their employees, or to start providing it,” said Little, who also serves as chief operating officer for the Farm Employers Labor Service, a CFBF affiliate.

While the law requires certain employers to provide health insurance coverage for employees by Jan. 1, 2014, many questions remain unanswered, Little said, as agricultural employers wait for more clarity from the Internal Revenue Service about determining which employees are considered full-time and which are considered seasonal.