Reader Concerned By Economic Realities
To The Reader’s Forum:
Farmworkers deserve to be and are treated with respect. The Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act concerns me. While its supporters mean well, the economic realities facing family farms (97% of farms are family owned) will make it difficult for many farms to survive the legislation’s higher costs. According to USDA, New York has lost about nine percent of its farms in the past five years, triple the national average, in part because of the depressed farm economy and rising labor costs.
Most New York farms already pay well above minimum wage to attract and retain quality employees. That’s in addition to providing free housing, transportation and other benefits. However, state lawmakers are looking to impose overtime on an eight-hour workday and 40-hour week, dramatically raising costs by $300 million according to Farm Credit East. Compounding this, farms outside of New York produce food more cheaply. We can’t just raise prices in a competitive marketplace to make up for the higher wages because farmers are wholesalers who must take the price the market offers. Due to many factors, including political, things like tariffs and sanctions have reduced our income significantly. All too often retributions for tariffs and sanctions are directed at agriculture.
A unique schedule is why agriculture is historically excluded from providing overtime. Some long days are required, in part because of weather and a fickle growing season. It is common sense, if farms can’t afford overtime, farmworkers will lose hours and thereby receive smaller paychecks, hurting those the bill is seeking to help.
Farm Bureau is supportive of a day of rest for employees. We also support a viable farm economy. Without that, rural New York, jobs on and off the farm, and access to local food will suffer.
Chautauqua County Farm Bureau