Norris: Assembly Needs To Consider Facts On Farms

Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,C,I,Ref-Lockport) this week joined Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,C-Canandaigua) and members of their conference to call on the Assembly Majority to hold public hearings regarding legislation that would allow farm workers to unionize (A.2750). The bill, known as the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, is sponsored by lawmakers from New York City and has strong opposition from the New York Farm Bureau and the entire agriculture community.

“This is another example of downstate lawmakers not understanding the realities of living or working in rural communities. This bill would devastate our farming community and drastically increase the cost of food for all New Yorkers,” said Norris. “Before they do anything, they should have all the facts on what it is like to be a farmer or work on a farm in our state. Farms are already struggling. If more close, the availability of fresh, nutritious food to our citizens would be greatly reduced, and the economic impact on our state – particularly in Western New York and other upstate regions – would be catastrophic.”

Norris and his colleagues asked for the public hearings in response to the state Senate Majority holding just three hearings on the measure last month. The hearings were held in Madison, Sullivan and Suffolk counties and drew a wide range of participants that overwhelmingly opposed the bill. In fact, farm workers who testified at the Madison County hearing said they would likely seek employment on farms in other states if the bill was enacted because mandating limited work hours would reduce their ability to support their families back home.

“I appreciate Senator Ortt holding his own hearing in Batavia on this issue so that the true views of upstate could be heard loud and clear. This is an example of why the Assembly needs to have more hearings on this issue in the communities that will be affected by this proposed law,” said Norris, referring to a public meeting held by Senator Rob Ortt in Batavia earlier this month.

New York State’s agriculture industry contributes roughly $5 billion to the state’s economy annually and employs approximately 198,000 people who work on over 35,000 farms.