NY Farm Bureau Highly Critical Of Threshold Decision
A farmers group is criticizing the New York Farm Labor Wage Board’s recommendation to lower the overtime threshold from 60 hours a week to 40.
The New York Farm Bureau devoted the bulk of a press briefing this week to denounce the decision by the wage board. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s labor commissioner must accept the change before it becomes official.
David Fisher, Farm Bureau president and wage board member, cast the lone “no” vote in a 2-1 decision. He said the change “will be extremely difficult for farmers.”
Fisher also alleged that the state mishandled some of the video testimony farmers were invited to give. “We know more than a dozen videos were never aired,” Fisher said. “I would have hoped (the board) would have considered more of the impact before a rush to decision.”
He added, “Generations of work spent on the farm — that may be over for some families.”
The board voted Jan. 29 to lower the farm threshold by four hours every other year, starting with overtime after 56 hours on or after Jan. 1, 2024.
Tax credits are supposed to help defray the cost of increased overtime. However, Fisher was skeptical of that, stating they would take too long to get to many farmers.
“It’s just a big uncertainty so we can’t really speak to that,” he said.
“They had no discussions beforehand,” he said of the overtime decision. “The whole thing happened quite quickly. … There was some testimony submitted that there wasn’t time to review.”
Responding to media questions, Fisher said creating salaried positions is not an option for most farmers.
“We don’t require people to work 60 hours if they don’t want to,” he said. “If you look across the country at the total data, only 3% to 5% of businesses pay overtime on their payroll.”
Fisher said the overtime change would severely impact foreign guest workers, as they are not supposed to work on more than one farm. He said in a survey of guest workers last year, 70% said they would not return to New York if the overtime threshold went down to 40 hours.
The state Farm Bureau — the parent organization of county farm bureaus — is highly engaged on this issue, Parker asserted.
“I have never seen this much passion for an issue. … We’ve had great participation and support,” he said.
However, Parker said the whole thing has farmers discouraged. He said even the discussion of lowering the threshold had many farmers rethinking high labor products, such as fruit and vegetable growing, in favor of something less labor-intensive.
Other farmers are talking about leaving the business entirely, he added.