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Farm Bureau worried about review of overteime regs for laborers

Farm Bureau worried about review of overteime regs for laborers

State rules currently kick in at 60 hours a week
Farm Bureau worried about review of overteime regs for laborers
A hay cutting is underway in this 2019 photo from a Saratoga County farm.
Photographer: Erica Miller

ALBANY — On a farm, there’s work to do dawn to dusk, and beyond. 

The New York state Department of Labor will spend 2020 considering more generous overtime protections for farm laborers, a proposition the farming industry says could put unnecessary strain on business.

A worker milking cows can now expect to earn overtime pay if their work week stretches past 60 hours. 

That was part of the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act of 2019, passed by a Democrat-controlled legislature after decades of debate, which granted farm workers collective bargaining and other protections.

The trade and lobbying organization for New York farmers had opposed the bill, saying it could raise costs and shift business to states with fewer regulations such as Pennsylvania or Ohio.

The act Cuomo signed in July mandates that the Department put together a wage board to hold hearings and get a report ready by December 2020 that would recommend whether to make overtime kick in sooner than the current 60-hour-week threshold.

The New York Farm Bureau on Monday criticized the Department of Labor’s investigation process, saying that only one year wouldn’t be enough to understand how a lower overtime threshold would affect farms. 

“Crops are not even in the ground for the spring planting season, let alone having no real-world examples of how this new law will impact harvest season,” said the Bureau in a statement released Monday. “This short window of time also does not allow any ability to see how different growing conditions due to extreme weather can impact overtime needs.”

The Department of Labor’s three-person farm wage board will include Farmer Bureau President David Fisher and will hold its first public meeting at 11 a.m. Feb. 28 in the State Museum Cultural Education Center in Albany. The others will be held in Syracuse, Binghamton, Long Island and Batavia.

Attendees must register to comment at any of the five meetings. 

Farming has a significant economic impact in the state, where around 20 percent of the state designated farmland. The largest sector, dairy, generated upward of $2.5 billion in gross farm income in 2018 according to the Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services.

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