Miller: Action Must Be Taken To Protect Farms

Assemblyman Brian Miller (R,C-New Hartford) is calling on the Legislature to take action in disbanding the Farm Laborers Wage Board, which is slated to vote to lower the threshold of overtime for farm workers in September. The assemblyman has been advocating for the threshold to remain at 60 hours. There is considerable concern from the agricultural industry that lowering the threshold to 40 hours will devastate an already-struggling, yet crucial, industry in New York, especially in rural communities.

“Farming is a part of the upstate rural heritage and an important part of our economy. It is our responsibility to support its well-being in New York. Agriculture is heavily impacted by fluctuations in the economy such as inflation and other factors out of their control such as weather. These compounding factors have been particularly difficult for family-run operations. If the state mandates an increase in labor costs, it will have a devastating effect on these farms,” said Miller, a former apple grower. “It is disappointing Gov. Hochul has not done anything to help our farmers in this regard. For the health of the rural economy, action must be taken to disband the Farm Laborers Wage Board now.”

Farmers are facing a 40 percent increase to their labor costs because it is expected the Farm Laborers Wage Board will impose a lowering of the overtime wage threshold. Cornell University reported in a 2021 study that two-thirds of dairy farms would be forced to stop producing milk due to increased costs, and about a quarter of produce farmers would relocate out of state. The same study argues that 70 percent of the guest workers would not return to New York farms and would seek employment elsewhere.These workers are looking for opportunities to maximize work hours, allowing them to increase earnings during the months they work to provide for themselves and their families. Lowering the overtime threshold limits such opportunities in New York.

The introduced bill would require a special session to take place. Miller says that such action is critical to saving the largest industry in the state.