Palmesano: No Farms, No Food

In response to Farm Laborer Wage Board recommendation to lower overtime threshold from 60 to 40 hours

“Gov. Hochul and this reckless decision by her wage board will be responsible for the destruction of the family farm in New York State if she and her labor commissioner do not reject this disastrous decision. Over 98% of the farms in our state are family owned.

“This decision was handed down on a Friday night news dump in an attempt to bury the out-of-touch and uninformed recommendation to lower the threshold. The 2-1 decision flies in the face of testimony from farmers and their workers. Over 70% of testimony delivered in hearings was in opposition to lowering the threshold.

“Members of the Wage Laborer Board also seemed to forget or 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. New York farmers have been working at a disadvantage for years due to the burdensome regulations and taxes experienced in our state. They are simply fighting for survival of their family farms.

“A Farm Credit East study found that a lowering of the overtime threshold from 60 to 40 hours would add an additional $129 million in annual costs, increasing farm labor costs by 42% while decreasing net farm income by 20%. In a Cornell University study, 70% of guest workers said they would seek opportunities in other states if the threshold were lowered to 40 hours. The same study showed a shocking two-thirds of the dairy farms in the interview said the 40-hour cap would cause them to move out of milk production or leave the agriculture industry completely.

“Our farmers have acted heroically over the past two years dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. They are facing rising inflation, increased costs and prices on items like fuel and fertilizer, a workforce shortage and a supply chain crisis. They are not able to increase prices to cover these costs. Now, to add further insult to injury, if Gov. Hochul and her labor commissioner decide to move forward with this disastrous recommendation they will have to bear the responsibility for decimating the family farm in New York state.

“Gov. Hochul can stop this action by urging her labor commissioner to reject this recommendation by the two uninformed, unelected and tone-deaf members of her wage board who advanced this dangerous and far-reaching decision. Gov. Hochul and her administration need to reject and stop this reckless decision from moving forward if she wants to preserve the family farm in New York state.

“I think Gov. Hochul needs to remember. No farms, no farmworkers. No farms, no food.”