Statement from the Grow NY Farms Coalition Following the Inclusion of a Minimum Wage Hike in the Final New York State Budget
“The Grow NY Farms Coalition is disappointed that minimum wage will continue to increase, driving…
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Originally appeared in The Citizen by Robert Harding:
With competing proposals to raise the state’s minimum wage under consideration, New York farmers are urging policymakers to pause any plans for pay hikes.
Grow NY Farms, a coalition that consists of eight groups, including the New York Farm Bureau, Northeast Dairy Producers Association, and New York State Vegetable Growers Association, sent a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul and state legislative leaders asking them to reject proposals to increase the state’s minimum wage.
One concern the coalition shared is that the original minimum wage increase that was approved in 2016 is still being phased in for upstate New York. While the minimum wage reached $15 an hour in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County within the last five years, the minimum wage in the rest of the state – including upstate counties – is at $14.20 an hour. It is expected to rise to $15 an hour at the end of this year.
“As we have said many times before, farmers are price takers and cannot set their prices in the marketplace,” Grow NY Farms wrote in its letter. “Any increase in mandated farm wages simply takes more money out of family farmers’ pockets at a time when farm economic viability is suspect at best. This jeopardizes the production of and access to fresh local food that the people of New York want.”
Milk prices for family dairy farms are set by the Federal Milk Marketing Order, not by farmers, Keith Kimball, chair of the Northeast Dairy Producers Association and a Groveland dairy farmer, said in a statement.
“The USDA is also projecting that milk prices will drop to $20.70 per hundredweight this month, down from $27.30 last May, making increases to payroll – in addition to new time-and-a-half rules – extremely difficult to plan for and manage,” Kimball said. “And when entry-level pay goes up, there’s an expectation that all wages and salaries increase, along with payroll taxes, workers’ compensation, and all of the other benefits that go along with it. Any additional increases to the state’s minimum wage will have serious negative consequences throughout our local food systems and rural economies.”
A bill introduced in the state Legislature would increase the minimum wage to $21.25 an hour, the highest of any state in the country. The legislation would also index the minimum wage to inflation to allow for annual cost-of-living adjustments.
Kimball said the Association is concerned with proposals to increase the minimum wage and tie it to inflation.
“The Assembly’s uniform wage rate puts upstate communities at a significant disadvantage since the cost of living is much lower upstate compared to downstate. A uniform wage based on New York’s downstate economy would further accelerate inflation and the decline of small businesses, which account for 98% of employers in New York State,” Kimball said in a statement.
Hochul included language in her state budget proposal that would index the minimum wage to inflation. However, her plan would not raise the minimum wage first before indexing it to inflation.
The state Legislature prefers indexing paired with an increase. When the state Senate Democrats released their one-house budget proposal, they rejected Hochul’s proposal and stated their support for raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation.
Hochul and state legislative leaders hoping to finalize the budget before the start of the new fiscal year on April 1. The competing minimum wage proposals will be addressed in those discussions.
Grow NY Farms hopes both sides will agree to hold off on any further minimum wage hikes.
“Additional mandates to increase wages for the agriculture industry will put New York’s food security at risk, jeopardize our food supply chains and ripple throughout our rural economies across the state,” the coalition said.
Added Kimball: “We ask the Legislature to acknowledge that the living wage varies across the state and provide a fair resolution that accounts for the inability of farms to pass on cost increases while absorbing all other rising input costs, to ensure the viability of our food supply for generations to come.”