Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) joined his Minority colleagues in both the Assembly and Senate sending a letter, spearheaded by Assembly Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Chris Tague (R,C,I-Schoharie), to Gov. Hochul and Labor Commissioner Reardon urging them to keep the farm overtime threshold at 60 hours. The letter comes after the Farm Laborers Wage Board recommended lowering the threshold to 40 hours, a move that would devastate family farms in New York. The 2-1 vote supported by two labor advocates with no agricultural background only stands as a recommendation. The implementation of a 40-hour threshold would have to be approved by Hochul and Reardon.
“The fact is, more than 98% of the farms in New York state are family-owned farms. So many family farms are simply trying to survive. Lowering the overtime threshold will put many of them in a financial position of no return. Our farmers have endured a pandemic, supply chain issues, a workforce shortage, 40-year high inflation, rising prices and costs on supplies critical to their operations and burdensome regulations out of Albany. They should be heralded as heroes for keeping their operations up and running, rather than squeezing any small profit margins they may have even more with a lowering of the overtime threshold.
“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 farms said that a lowering from 60 hours to 40 hours would cause them to move out of milk production or leave the agriculture industry entirely.
“I have said it before and I will continue to remind Gov. Hochul. If there are no farms, there are no farmworkers. If there are no farms, there is no food. Let’s be clear, the fate of the family farm in New York rests squarely in the hands of Gov. Hochul,” said Palmesano.