Agriculture is part of the very fabric that makes up New York. Despite many obstacles, our farming community provides food and livelihoods year after year to our families, school children and those less fortunate with passion and diligence. Starting yesterday, we celebrate the contributions of our farming community and those who will continue the proud tradition of meeting our nutritional needs during America’s Future Farmers Week, which runs through Saturday, February 26.
The sad reality, however, is that New York farmers and their legacy are in trouble. Recently, the Farmworkers’ Wages Council recommended lowering the overtime threshold for farmworkers. New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon and Governor Kathy Hochul will now assess the recommendation and decide how to proceed. For anyone who has ever owned a farm or understands the challenges New York farmers face, it’s clear that if brought forward, these new regulations will deal a fatal blow to an already struggling industry.
More than 70 percent of testimony submitted to the Farmworkers’ Wage Commission expressed the importance of keeping the threshold where it is. Along with planned minimum wage hikes, such a drastic change is expected to drive up labor costs by more than 40%, according to a recent Farm Credit East report. This will drive up food prices and threaten an already delicate supply chain.
Last week, our conference hosted a gathering of agricultural stakeholders from across the state. The New York Farm Bureau and family farm owners have made it clear how damaging their future would be to lowering the threshold from 60 hours to 40 hours. For months, the farming community has been telling us of their fears of having to cut back on operations, laying off workers who may find work elsewhere, or shutting down operations here altogether. New York family farms passed down from generation to generation will disappear.
If Governor Hochul’s administration follows through on these changes, it risks tearing New York’s rich agricultural history to the seams. Farms will close and these lands will be redeveloped for other purposes. The farming community is not talking about leaving to make threats; it is giving a serious warning. It will not work.
It is up to Commissioner Reardon and Governor Hochul to do something about this. I strongly urge them to listen to farmers in New York. They know exactly what will happen if these changes happen, and it is not good for the farmers, consumers or workers that these changes are supposed to help.
If you have any questions or comments about this or any other state issue, or would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 19 Canalview Mall, Fulton, NY 13069 and by email at [email protected] You can also find me, Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, on Facebook or on Twitter at @WillABarclay.
Will Barclay, RCI-120 of Pulaski, is the Assembly Minority Leader.