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Local Farmers: State’s Fair Labor Bill Isn’t Fair To Us

By Judy Rife
Times Herald-Record

Judy Rife of the Times Herald-Record wrote an article on the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. A preview of the article is available below. To view the full article, visit the Times Herald-Record website.

Hudson Valley farmers have been doing the math of a proposed state law that would require them to pay their workers overtime and finding themselves in the minus column.

“I would have to gross another $22,440 over an eight-month season and nobody’s been able to tell me how I can do that,″ said Kira Kinney, who owns a 20-acre vegetable farm in New Paltz and relies on five workers. “Legislators assume we can pass higher costs along to consumers as higher prices, but it doesn’t work that way, not in agriculture.”

A farmer for 24 years, Kinney will testify Thursday at the last of three hearings — being held from 1-5 p.m. at SUNY Sullivan in Loch Sheldrake — on the proposed Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, a 20-year-old piece of legislation that the newly Democratic-controlled state Legislature wants to adopt before it adjourns in June.

A summary of Kinney’s testimony, in an email newsletter she sends to her Brooklyn greenmarket and New Paltz CSA customers, has already found its way to farmers across the state. (Read the newsletter at www.recordonline.com/aglabor).

“She doesn’t miss anything,″ said Chris Pawelski, an onion farmer in Goshen who has forwarded the newsletter far and wide. “I don’t have a money tree. None of us do. I’m getting the same thing for onions today that I got 30 years ago.”

The hearings were organized by Sen. Jessica Ramos, D-Queens, chair of the labor committee and sponsor of the bill, and Sen. Jen Metzger, D-Rosendale, chair of the agriculture committee, after Ramos announced her intent to champion the legislation.

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