Farmers Concerned Lowering Overtime Hours May Be End of Small Farms in New York
It's no secret life on a farm is tough. Working from long before the sun comes up to long after it goes down, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There's no time for sick days or even vacation. And there's no overtime pay until after 60 hours. But that may soon change in New York and it's not all good news.
The state board voted to recommend a 40-hour overtime rule for farmworkers that would be phased in over the next 10 years. At first glance, it sounds like good news but NY Farm Grow, an organization that represents the agricultural interest of many New Yorkers said the decision was made despite 70% of the testimony made by farmers and farm workers who asked for overtime to stay at 60.
It is disingenuous and irresponsible that the data, research, and comments made from those who know agriculture best were cast aside by the majority of the Wage Board. This is a loss for New Yorkers who enjoy and depend on access to local food, something that was highlighted during the pandemic.
New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher voted against lowering the overtime hours, asking for more time to study the economic impact. A formal recommendation still needs to be sent to Governor Kathy Houch's labor commissioner Roberta Reardon for approval.
Governor Hochul and Commissioner Reardon must do what is right and let the facts be their guide. If this administration cares about the future of upstate New York, Long Island, and urban access to locally produced food, they must put a stop to the constant regulatory assault on agriculture.
If Commissioner Reardon approves lower the overtime for farmers, New York would only be the third state, behind California and Washington with a 40-hour threshold. Overtime hours would start dropping by four hours every other year starting with 56 overtime hours on or after January 1, 2024.