ALBANY — After today’s release of the Farm Laborers Wage Board report, members of the Grow NY Farms Coalition called on Governor Hochul and Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon to reject the report and maintain the current overtime threshold at 60 hours per week.
Members of the Grow NY Farms Coalition stated that the report is the product of a flawed process. They explained how the report downplays important testimony and data from farm workers, farmers, and researchers from Cornell University, and it omits reference of important workforce training and workplace protections already in place – many of which are nation-leading and even stronger than what’s provided in other industries.
Statement from the Grow NY Farms Coalition:
“New Yorkers depend on the viability of local family farms. Yet, recommendations put forth by the Department of Labor in the Farm Laborers Wage Board report will put the future of farming in New York at risk. In fact, this report and its recommendations are not reflective of the significant data and research conducted by academics and industry experts, or the majority of public testimony provided throughout the public hearing process. We urge Governor Hochul to direct Commissioner Reardon and the Department of Labor to dismiss this report and pause any decisions relating to overtime until the USDA Census of Agriculture is released in 2024, which will help inform potential changes to our state’s volatile, fragile, and necessary agriculture industry.”
New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said, “I believe the report which was written by the Department of Labor does not reflect the data, research and scope of the full testimony that was provided. It gave added weight to the opinions of those in favor of a lower threshold and discounted the majority of the in-person and written testimony of farmers, farmworkers and agricultural experts. The facts cannot be ignored, even if the report does not give them their due consideration.”
Northeast Dairy Producers Association Vice Chair Keith Kimball said, “The entire Farm Laborer Wage Board process has lacked transparency and integrity from the start, and the final report is no exception. The Wage Board report fails to represent the outpouring of testimony from New York’s agriculture industry, which resulted in over 70% of testimony asking to keep overtime at 60 hours. There’s also no mention of the hundreds of letters or other written and video testimony provided by farmworkers. And, it discredits the economics of family farms and the unique challenges no other industries are faced with. This has not been a fair process. As a farmer who testified himself and whose workers also testified, it is extremely disheartening to feel like those impacted by this decision were never heard and are in fact being ignored.”
New York State Vegetable Growers Association President Brian Reeves said, “I’m disheartened and disappointed that the voices of farmworkers, farmers, and researchers who spoke in support of the current overtime threshold have essentially been ignored. This report shows that the majority of the Wage Board never truly considered all of the information and insights offered to them during this process. I strongly encourage Governor Hochul and Commissioner Reardon to reject this flawed report and maintain the current overtime threshold.”
New York State Horticulture Society and the New York State Berry Growers Association Executive Director Jim Bittner said, “As a farmer and agriculture advocate, I’m extremely concerned about the future of farming in New York if this report is accepted by Commissioner Reardon. The report completely fails to take into account the massive cost increases – especially for fuel and fertilizer – that farmers have faced during the pandemic. There’s also no mention of the fact that New York has lost almost 5,000 farms over the last 20 years, and we’re expecting a new USDA Census report in 2024 which should inform decisions moving forward. We need Governor Hochul and Commissioner Reardon to support our farms and stay at 60.”
Cornell Research Report: Click here to watch a video presentation by Cornell University E. V. Baker Professor of Agricultural Economics Chris Wolf.
Cornell Testimony: Click here to watch a video presentation by Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development Director Dr. Richard Stup.
Farm Credit East Report: Click here to watch a video presentation by Farm Credit East.
Once the board delivers its report, Department of Labor Commissioner Reardon will have 45 days to review and announce her decision. Within five days of receipt, DOL will publish notice in at least 10 newspapers of general circulation in the state. Any objections to the report and recommendations can be sent to the Commissioner within 15 days after such publication.
Click here to download a recording of the Grow NY Farms virtual press conference.
–Grow NY Farms Coalition