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Farm Labor Bureau Lowers Farm Worker Overtime Rules

September 6, 2022

New York Farm Bureau Statement on Farm Laborers Wage Board Report to Lower Overtime Threshold for Farmworkers:

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher voted to oppose the final report on the overtime threshold because it is not a full and accurate depiction of the data and testimony gathered during the two-year long process. This includes a lack of significant economic data as well as detailed testimony from farmers, farmworkers, and agricultural experts.

New York State agriculture is a national leader in wage rates, human resource development, and safety training. Many of the farm labor protections in place exceed those of any private industry in the state. Yet much of this was also not included in the report. In the end, the report written by the Department of Labor justifies the wage board recommendations based on cherry picked data and inflammatory opinions. We are asking Commissioner Reardon to set the record straight and reject the report.

From Assemblyman Phil Palmesano:
“Today, the unelected Farm Laborers Wage Board delivered a tone-deaf and financially devastating final recommendation for the family farms in New York state by recommending to lower the overtime threshold from 60 hours to 40 hours. This comes at a time when we are experiencing record 40-year high inflation, gas prices remain high and grocery bills are skyrocketing. This decision, if approved by Gov. Hochul, which shows just how out of touch the Wage Board is, will have a negative ripple effect on our state’s economy that will be felt by consumers, farmworkers and most importantly, on the family farm. Ninety-eight percent of farms in New York are considered family farms and they have been operating at tight profit margins through COVID-19, supply chain issues and burdensome regulations out of Albany. Today’s recommendation could decimate the family farm as we know it.

“The Wage Board has failed to consider that before the Farm Labor Act was passed in 2019, farm labor costs in New York as a percentage of net farm income were already 63%, compared to just 36% nationally. Our farmers have been at a competitive disadvantage for years.

“Seventy percent of the testimony in front of the Wage Board by both farmers and farmworkers was in support of keeping the threshold at its current 60 hours. In addition to the overwhelming support, we can see the devastating effects of lowering the threshold in a recent Farm Credit East study. The study predicts a whopping $129 million increase in annual costs to farmers, including a 42% increase in farm labor costs and a decrease of 20% in net farm income. This is simply not sustainable. This is simply not right. A Cornell University study showed two-thirds of dairy farmers said a lowering from 60 hours to 40 hours would cause them to move out of milk production or leave the agriculture industry entirely.

“This will now go to Gov. Hochul for a final decision. The fate of the family farm and the entire agriculture industry in the state now falls at her doorstep. I join my colleagues, members of the Farm Bureau, industry leaders, farmworkers and most importantly farmers in calling on Gov. Hochul to reject lowering the overtime threshold,” concluded Palmesano. Palmesano is urging residents to call the governor’s office at 518-474-8390 and Labor Commissioner Reardon’s office at 518-457-9000 to ask them to preserve the family farm in New York state and not reduce the overtime threshold. It is important to remind them, NO FARMS, NO FARMWORKERS. NO FARMS, NO FOOD.

From State Senator George Borrello:
“Today, New York’s farming community moved another step closer to a tragic reckoning with the decision by the Farm Laborers Wage Board to officially recommend lowering the farm worker overtime threshold from 60 hours to 40 hours.

“It was unfair and unethical of the Legislature’s majorities and New York’s former governor to require this decision of three unelected individuals, two-thirds of whom lack any agriculture background. While well-meaning individuals, these board members are ill equipped to render sound, informed decisions concerning this critically important industry.

“The real experts on this issue were the hundreds of those on the front lines of the industry – farmers, farm workers and agribusiness representatives – who provided nearly unanimous testimony at the board’s public hearings that a lower threshold would force them to change or scale back their operations or abandon agriculture entirely. Farm workers, the alleged ‘beneficiaries’ of this decision, testified that a lower threshold would force them to seek work in other states. The fact that the Wage Board ignored the voices of those who have devoted their lives to farming indicates that the process was always intended to be optics and nothing more.

“It is not too late for Governor Hochul to do the right thing for everyone involved and stop this harmful change from moving forward. Over the last four years, there have been too many examples where Albany has put political special interests ahead of the greater public good and the consequences have been disastrous. Governor Hochul has the opportunity to prevent this issue from being added to that dubious list and I urge her to seize it.”

From Senator Tom O’Mara:
“The Wage Board has been moving in this direction from the start and now Governor Hochul has the opportunity to finally reject it. She should listen to the thousands of farmers, farm workers, farm advocates, agricultural representatives, community leaders, and legislators, including me, in near-unanimous opposition. The message has been delivered from the industry’s top advocates, including the New York Farm Bureau, the Northeast Dairy Producers Association, Grow NY Farms, and numerous others. Local, federal, and state representatives have made it known that we fear the undermining of an industry and, equally important, a way of life that has defined the regions we represent. If left to stand, it will change the face of New York State agriculture as we have known it for generations. It will risk the future of high quality, local food production. It will spark the loss of more family farms and the livelihoods these farms support across the industry and throughout hundreds of local economies. Now is no time to risk regulating and mandating an even more uncertain future for family farmers, farm workers, farm communities, and New York’s agricultural industry overall.”

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