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Holding Off On Farm Overtime Changes Is A Good Call By State

State Labor Department officials have made the right call in postponing a decision on farmworker overtime until sometime in January or February.

New information has been presented since public hearings were last held on the matter in the form of a Cornell University study that paints a grim picture of farm finances and the impact on farm workers if overtime begins for farm workers at 40 or 50 hours each week.

We’re not talking about the Farm Credit East study that is often trotted out to back up farm owners’ claims that paying workers overtime will bankrupt farms. Instead, we take note of a study by Cornell University that came out just last week — and which, we note, backs up the Farm Credit East survey. Policy makers who may have thought the Farm Credit East study was written by groups too close to the dairy industry now must confront what farmers have been saying.

Cornell University researchers, after all, are no dummies. And they say two-thirds of dairy farms interviewed indicated they would move out of milk production, direct future dairy investment to other states, invest outside of dairy, or exit agriculture entirely while half of fruits and vegetable farms interviewed indicated they would shrink enterprises or exit the industry. On the other side of the equation, 72% of guest workers indicated that they would be less likely to do their current job if hours were capped at 40 per week while 70% of guest workers indicated that they would consider going to another state without capped hours if hours were limited in New York.

Three virtual public hearings will be held, though we don’t know what good the hearings will do. Cornell has already done the state’s work. Starting overtime at 40 hours is bad for farms and farm workers. The real question is whether or not the state will listen.

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