Grow NY Farms Coalition Calls on Governor Hochul and Commissioner Reardon to Reject Flawed Wage Board Report
Click here to download a recording of the Grow NY Farms virtual press conference Albany, NY…
Albany, NY – The Grow NY Farms Coalition today announced that the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) is in support of maintaining the current overtime threshold at 60 hours for family farms across the Empire State.
During their 2022 Legislative Conference in Albany, which took place March 14-16, NYSAC passed a resolution affirming the group’s support of the current 60-hour overtime threshold.
NYS Association of Counties President and Tioga County Chair Martha Sauerbrey said, “New York’s counties are proud to stand with the family farmers and farmworkers who produce the food that fills our grocery store shelves, our school cafeterias and local foodbanks in opposing this change to the overtime threshold. We need to be doing everything we can to support our local farmers as they confront challenges from increasingly erratic weather and rising costs of feed and fuel, not adding additional burdens that threaten their ability to feed our communities and power local economies.”
NYS County Executives Association President and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “New York’s counties have sent a clear message that we cannot let our farmers and farmworkers lose income, hours, or the ability to continue providing local milk and food to our communities. These multi-generational family-run businesses are essential, and can’t stand by and allow them to go out of business, while their employees leave to work more hours in competing states. Nourish NY, food pantries, local grocery stores, school districts – all of our programs and food hubs depend on our local supply chain. Any reduction in the overtime threshold will only put family farms and New York’s food security at risk.”
NY Farm Bureau Vice President, and Partner at A. Ooms & Sons Dairy Farm in Columbia County, Eric Ooms said, “New York State’s county leaders have made their voices heard, and we hope that Governor Kathy Hochul is listening. We’re grateful for NYSAC’s support and partnership as we continue to advocate for the viability of New York’s farms and protection of the state’s local food supply. We cannot ignore the more than 70% of participants who asked to maintain the threshold during Farm Laborers Wage Board hearings. University researchers, industry experts, local and state officials, in addition to farmers and farmworkers, have asked to keep the threshold at 60. If we want to protect these family businesses for the next generation of farmers and farmworkers, the threshold must remain at 60 hours.”
Northeast Dairy Producers Association Chair, and Partner at Ideal Dairy Farms in Washington County, John Dickinson said, “Now is not the time to increase costs for an industry that cannot pass these increases on to consumers. Family farms are having to decide between filling the tractor’s diesel tank at more than $5 a gallon to start planting in the fields, or purchasing feed for their herd which has also skyrocketed over the past year. Any reduction in the overtime threshold is a lose-lose – for our employees, the Nourish NY program, the diversity of the state’s agriculture industry, and the viability of the future of farming in the Empire State. We’re asking Governor Hochul to stay at 60.”
New York State Vegetable Growers Association President, and Partner at Reeves Farm in Onondaga County, Brian Reeves said, “Our employees want to work. They understand the need to plant and harvest when Mother Nature allows, and they have a passion for caring for the land, each other, and the fresh produce that results from all our preparation, efforts, and teamwork. Unfortunately, farms are already feeling the unintended consequences of the 60-hour threshold, as employees choose to work for our competitors in order to get the hours they’re looking for. At the same time, our margins are increasingly razor-thin and we’re unable to donate as much food as we used to. If we have any chance at retaining our skilled workforce and continuing to provide to our neighbors and families across the state, Governor Hochul must keep the overtime threshold at 60.”
Click here to view the resolution online, found on page 14.
The Resolution Supporting Maintaining the 60-Hour Work Week for Farm Workers:
WHEREAS, agriculture is New York State’s largest industry; and
WHEREAS, the Farm Laborers Wage Board has proposed to lower the farm labor overtime threshold from 60 to 40 hours; and
WHEREAS, farmers are critical components of our regional economy and are necessary to ensure supermarkets are stocked with food; and
WHEREAS, New York State is frequently number two in the nation for agricultural products in pounds donated to foodbanks, including the Nourish New York program; and
WHEREAS, donations of New York-grown products would be negatively impacted as a result of lowering the overtime threshold for farm workers; and
WHEREAS, from the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers have stepped up and ensured their operations continued and were responsible for donating thousands of pounds of food to local food banks at a time of significant need; and
WHEREAS, New York farmers face a tremendous number of challenges outside of their control, including changes in consumer demand leading to price changes, obtaining labor, climate change, land management policies, foreign market competition, and livestock and crop disease; and
WHEREAS, in addition to the practical issues related to growing and selling food products, New York farmers must contend with government regulations, including changes in wages and overtime threshold; and
WHEREAS, New York grown agricultural products would be at a competitive disadvantage in neighboring states as a result of increased labor costs associated with lowering the overtime threshold for farm workers; and
WHEREAS, since the adoption of the 2019 Farm Laborers Fair Practice Act, one of the more pressing issues for the farming community has been mandated overtime requirements which currently grant farmworkers a right to overtime after sixty (60) hours of work each week; and
WHEREAS, New York farmers are reliant on migratory work forces during New York’s short growing season, as workers are here for only a few months in the spring and summer and have limited hours each year to get the work done; and
WHEREAS, the Act does not prohibit the wage board from arbitrarily decreasing the overtime threshold again, further increasing costs on local farms and their use of seasonal workers; and
WHEREAS, the provisions of the Act would negatively impact the farming community by either increasing costs for farmers, who are operating under very tight margins, or will cut into work opportunities for migratory workers and the intended beneficiaries of overtime wages; and
WHEREAS, cutting budgeted support levels and drastically increasing costs through government interference should be avoided whenever possible; and
WHEREAS, together farmworkers and farmers oppose the overtime threshold limit, with 70 percent of all testimony opposing any change and most of the testimony provided in the hearing process requesting “NO CHANGE” to the overtime threshold.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) hereby supports the farmers and migrant workers who do not want their hours reduced; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that NYSAC hereby supports maintaining the 60-hour work week for farmers and recommends stopping the implementation of a reduction in the farm labor overtime threshold; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that copies of this resolution be sent to the counties of New York State encouraging member counties to enact similar resolutions; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NYSAC shall forward copies of this resolution to Governor Kathy Hochul, the New York State Legislature, the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets, and all others deemed necessary and proper.
To date, more than 150 organizations representing New York’s agriculture industry, including the New York Apple Association, New York Association of Agricultural Educators, New York Farm Bureau, New York State Vegetable Growers Association, Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance, Northeast Dairy Producers Association, and other family farms and ag-related businesses, have joined the Grow NY Farms Coalition. #StayAt60.