The New York State Farm Labor Wage Board has officially given its recommendation to lower the overtime threshold for farm workers from the current 60 hours to 40 hours on Tuesday, September 6th. The recommendation was sent to the state Labor Department, who will have final say.
The recommendation has had its controversy since being introduced to the board. Farmers argue the lower threshold will cut farm hours and bring the risk of farm workers leaving the state to work elsewhere, which will hurt farms that are already struggling to find workers.
The New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher, who dissented on the decision, released a statement regarding the recommendation. He argues that the report submitted fails to bring evidence that a large number of farms pay employees off the books, does not take into account that farm workers earn a yearly salary within 4-8 months of working, and the report fails to take in the negative impact the threshold has had on the state of California.
Fisher also stated that a large portion of workers would leave the state.
“In highlighting the testimony from economist Chris Wolf of Cornell, the report conveniently leaves out the employee survey that showed 72% of farm workers said they would leave the state if their hours were cut. That is a major piece of hard data.” Fisher said in his statement.
New York State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt released in a statement that this will just add more burden to farmers that are still reeling from the pandemic, supply chain issues, and soaring prices.
“Throughout the public comment period, hundreds of farmers and workers took time out of their busy days to voice their concerns that lowering the OT threshold will threaten small family farms and force workers to other states. Sadly, their voices fell on deaf ears and once again, the political ruling class in Albany ignored those directly impacted by this decision.” Orrt said in an official statement.
The opinions though are not just one sided, Democrat and now New York State Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado voiced his opposition to lowering the overtime threshold as well.
“Agriculture already faces a growing labor crisis, and lowering the farmworker overtime threshold to 40 hours puts farm operations in New York State at serious risk. Many farmers and producers have expressed concerns that the resulting increase in costs will put them out of business. A state commissioned study conducted by Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences identified major negative impacts if the overtime threshold is lowered to 40 hours. The study noted that two-thirds of the dairy farms surveyed stated they would move out of dairy farming, move investments outside of the state or industry or leave agriculture altogether if the overtime threshold is lowered to 40 hours. Fruit and vegetable farms reported leaving some crops unharvested due to higher labor costs, ultimately resulting in increased food waste. A report by Farm Credit East notes that the increased labor costs are most likely to reduce farm earnings, having a significant impact on smaller farms.” Delgado stated in a letter to Governor Hochul.