For Immediate Release: Wednesday, July 17, 2019 Statement From Grow NY Farms on the Passage…
NEW YORK AGRICULTURE CALLS FOR FIXING FOUR FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS BEFORE A VOTE TO ALTER THE FUTURE OF NEW YORK FARM PRACTICES
If Flaws Remain, Vote No on S.6578/ A8419
For the past six months, hundreds of farmers and farmworkers spent countless hours meeting with legislators, testifying at hearings, hosting legislative farm tours, engaging in roundtable discussions, and turning out for a rally at the Capitol to tell their story and demonstrate that there is a path forward to address civil rights issues while not unduly burdening farmers. We are appreciative of the leadership and support from Senate and Assembly legislators who worked tirelessly to find this path forward while keeping our New York agriculture industry in business.
On this last day of the state legislative session, we unfortunately announce that our work is incomplete and does not receive our endorsement. The Senate and Assembly bill that will be debated today does not create a path that will assure an economically viable New York agriculture industry. Unfortunately, this bill will hurt farmworkers the most because their work hours will be restricted and their income reduced. New York’s agricultural community will continue to work to find the balance required to grow New York farms and keep farmworkers working.
Over the past several days, New York’s agricultural community has been seeking to correct four fundamental flaws contained in the new legislation (Assembly Bill No. 8419 and Senate Bill No. 6578) drafted this past weekend. If these flaws remain, we recommend legislators vote no on S.6578/ A8419.
The agriculture community is concerned about:
Requiring wages paid at an overtime rate on the prescribed day of rest if the employee accepts additional hours by declining the option of a day off.
As it is currently written, managing payroll costs and the workers’ objectives to optimize their time and wages will lead to several realities:
- Reduced farmworker earnings and wages because farmers cannot afford to pay overtime;
- Extended work days, forcing 60-hours into six days to ensure wages are paid at straight time;
- A shut down of farm operations when storms and other weather related events interrupt work schedules – creating statutorily compliant periods of rest; and
- A dissatisfied and an unstable farm workforce. The welfare of animals and crops will be compromised due to workers seeking other opportunities that optimize their wages.
Limiting the family farm definition to parents, spouses and children.
This limitation fails to recognize that many extended families have consolidated agricultural operations, and that the involvement of various family members of multiple generations and degrees of separation is routine. This element of the legislation is punitive to those who seek to maintain the agricultural tradition and interest in the family business.
Composition of the wage board is too narrow, and its associated actions recklessly implemented.
The Assembly and Senate establish statutory provisions and legislative intent. Its authority is among the essential elements of the separation of powers. It should not yield its authority to a three member board appointed by the executive (which allows a quorum for action of only two members) and its role be advisory to the legislature.
The deadline imposed for the first mandated hearing on farm overtime provisions (only two months after the bill’s enactment) is not practical or workable for the farm community. The farmers to which these provisions apply will just be dealing with the early, initial impacts of a new 60-hour overtime threshold on the industry.
In addition, the appointees to the body fail to include the state’s key agency expert on agriculture issues – the State Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Collective bargaining requires fairness for both farmworkers and farmers.
Elections conducted without the sanctity of a secret ballot open questions of integrity of the vote. Adequate time for voluntarily resolving disputes must be incorporated.
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In the Absence of Amendments to These Flawed Elements
New York’s Agriculture Community Urges You to Oppose (A.8419 and S.6578) by
Organizations urging fixes to the legislative flaws include:
New York Farm Bureau
New York State Vegetable Growers Association
Northeast Dairy Producers Association
New York Apple Association
Agri-Mark Dairy Cooperative
Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc.
Cayuga Marketing Ingredients
Empire State Council of Agricultural Organizations
NYS Horticulture Society
New York Wine Industry Association
New York Wine Grape Growers
Long Island Wine Council
New York Agribusiness Association
Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance
Empire State Forest Products Association
New York Association of Agricultural Educators
New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc.
Grow NY Farms represents a coalition of more than 50 New York-based farms, local businesses and organizations. To learn more, visit www.GrowNYFarms.com.