Farm Bureau President Speaks About Labor Act

Editor’s Note: On Thursday, The Post-Journal spoke with Richard Kimball, president of the Chautauqua County Farm Bureau, about the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act. Some of those comments needed additional context. Below, The Post-Journal provides context to Kimball’s remarks so that the record is accurate.

In the wake of the passage of the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, Richard Kimball, president of the Chautauqua County Farm Bureau, wants to make sure county residents know where he stands on the legislation and the future of farming.

As was reported in Thursday’s edition of The Post-Journal, Kimball said he fears the state’s increases in the minimum wage combined with the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act and other state mandates are too burdensome for an already struggling industry. Farmers have also taken hits over the past several years as the prices they can receive for their products have declined, labor shortages have made running a farm more difficult and President Donald Trump’s tariffs have made life more difficult when it comes to finding new markets for locally farmed products.

The Post-Journal quoted Kimball saying the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act will make life more difficult on local family owned farms because they don’t get enough subsidies. The subsidies Kimball was referring to were tariff-related subsidies from which larger corporate farms benefited while smaller family farms like most of the ones in Chautauqua County didn’t see as much benefit.

“I was talking about how hard times have been for the last four years,” Kimball said. “Prices are really low. When you have mandates like overtime and everything else coming down the road and tariffs imposed on us, we cannot pass those costs along.

Kimball also wanted to make sure his thoughts were clear when it comes to how local farms treat their employees. The local farmer said workers on local farms earn more than the minimum wage while receiving other benefits like housing and transportation.

“We want to treat our employees as fairly as we can,” Kimball said. “We want to keep our employees. Nobody here gets just the minimum, even now. “

The other area of concern for Kimball concerns large corporate farms. Corporate farms aren’t prevalent yet in Chautauqua County, so the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act doesn’t necessarily create a situation in the county where farms like Kimball’s are competing with corporate farms as the state increases the cost of doing business. Kimball’s concern is his vision that the increasing personnel costs created by some state actions, like the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, will result in a situation where only large corporate farms can achieve the economies of scale to farm profitably.

“We don’t have many corporate farms here for sure,” Kimball said. “The point was that these kind of mandates will push out the family farms and then the corporate farms will come in when they can charge a big price and make a profit — and then everyone will pay more.”