Protecting the Family Farm

Legislative Column by Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R,C,I-Black River)

The Farm Labor Wage Board will be meeting within the next few weeks to discuss the current 60-hour overtime threshold that is currently in place for farmers. I urge the board to keep the current threshold rather than reduce it. I join in this bipartisan call with many of my legislative colleagues and countless small farm owners from across the state. Small family farms are the backbone of our state’s economy. All you have to do is drive through the North Country to see how many family operations we rely on for our food supply. These farms are already spread thin due to the current threshold; and any reduction from 60 hours could have a devastating effect.

As it is, our farmers are living on reduced profit margins due to the pandemic, excessive regulations from Albany and a Joe Biden economy that is punishing the middle class. At the current 60-hour threshold we have already seen farmers forced to cut the hours of their employees and migrant workers who have spent decades on the same farm but are now seeking opportunities in other business-friendly states. Farmers also cannot set their own prices like we see in many other industries, so as costs from over-regulation continue to put the squeeze on their margins, where will increased income be coming in if the product prices are not increasing?

In the past, a 40-hour work week was floated. We cannot afford the Farm Labor Wage Board regulating our family farms out of business and that is exactly what is at stake. The farmers are not asking for anything over-the-top, they are just asking for a fair shot. Unlike other businesses, a farm can simply not just shut down. The animals need constant attention and if we lower the threshold to 40 hours, there will be fewer employees available which in turn will create an untenable situation that could lead to decreased quality of production. Just think about what these family farms are bringing to your table from produce, to dairy, to fruits and vegetables.

As we advocate and fight for the family farm, please use this as a reminder to buy your agriculture products locally. They are some of the safest and most quality products in the world, we owe these small farms our gratitude.

With questions on this or any other district-related issue, please feel free to reach out to my office at or 315-493-3909.