Farmers say OT mandate would weaken NY agriculture


ALBANY, N.Y. — As a Outcome of the 2021 season attracts to An in depth for Ny fruit grower Jim Bittner, He is apprehensive his payroll prices might soar if Barely acknowledged state panel decides to mandate that farmers pay their staff further time All of the time labored in Every week in extra of 40 hours

The current weekly further time threshold for agricultural staff in Ny is 60 hours. That was put in place two yrs in the past. Earlier than then, Ny farmstaff Did not qualify for further time, as staff in completely different industries do after working 40 hours.

No further time

Bittner, of Niagara County, said if the three-member state Farm Laborers Wage Board drops The further time threshold to 40 hours And even 50 hours per week, The problem To place extra pay Inside the pockets of farmstaff might boomerang, leaving these staff with fewer hours Of labor and A discount in earnings.

“We’d restrict the Quantity of hours we give to the place The sting Is about,” said the operator of Bittner-Singer Orchards in Appleton, noting his farm is in no place To Take in An enhance in payroll prices.”We’re simply not going to pay further time.”

The mannequin new York Farm Bureau and pretty A pair of lawmakers recurrenting upstate districts dotted with farm fields are bracing for hearings on tHe problem. They Want to be held by Dec. 15, although They’ve but to be scheduled by state Labor Commissioner Rebecca Reardon.

The members of the panel embrace: Denis Hughes, former president of the state AFL-CIO, Brfinisha McDuffie, president of the Buffalo Metropolis League; and David Fisher, president of the Ny Farm Bureau.

Does not add up

They’re anticipated to get an earful from each farmers and teams advocating for the rights of farmstaff.

Contacted at her Clinton County farm, Helen Giroux of Giroux Orchards, said about 200 staff from Jamaica, after qualifying for federal H2A agricultural visas, decide apples each season. The character of crops, she said, Leads to a compressed Time interval To finish a harvest.

Apples, she noticed, Do not mature on a schedule that meshes with anyone’s idea of the place The further time threshold diploma Ought to be set.

“Sadly, The prices of enterprise Goes up with every thing, and This Is in a place to be ancompletely different added value for us,” Giroux said. “And, to be reliable, We do not actually see these returns On The completely different finish.”

If There is a leap in labor prices, she added, “Which will imply that we refresh and replant fewer orchards subsequent yr.”

Important service

Ny is Definitely one of simply six states that current farmstaff with further time safety. California is slated To maneuver to a 40-hour threshold Inside The approaching yr. The completely different states the place farmers qualify for further time are Minnesota, Hawaii, Maryland and Washington.

Labor teams and immigrant advocates notice state further time exemptions for farmstaff are an outgrowth of the Truthful Labor Requirements Act in 1938, They contfinish the exclusions have been hatched Inside the Jim Crow Period of racist legal guidelines and insurance coverage policies and Wouldn’t have proceedd if Almost all of farmstaff Weren’t Hispanic as they At the second are, however Caucasian.

Ivy Hest, spokeswoman for the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, said ending the carve-out that shields farms from paying further time till staff put in extra of 60 hours in Every week on the clock is a matter of financial simplyice.

“Farmstaff have conagencyed all by way of the pandemic thOn they proceed To level out up And current An important service, and It is unfair to treOn them in A particular method from completely different staff,” Hest said. “WhOn they do Is strong, again-breaking labor, and to treOn these staff in A particular method doesn’t make sense.”

Distinctive enterprise

At the statehouse in Albany, farmers pushing in the direction of A discount Inside The further time threshold have drawn the againing of Republican lawmakers and a smattering of Democrats from rural spaces, the placeas the argument for A discount Inside The sting has primarily been made by NY city space Democrats.

Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Otsego County, said having financialally by way ofble farms is essential to the upstate financial system. He noticed agriculture is a “unique enterprise” the place prolonged hours Inside The sector at harvest and planting occasions are required.

Ought to The further time threshold fall to 40 hours, Oberacker said, “Some farms might simply as properly shut up and go house” pretty than dealing with a regulatory scheme that impedes their capability To current a revenue.

Ancompletely different upstate lawmaker, Sen. Thomas O’Mara, R-Elmira, has submitted legal guidelines Which might delay motion on the proposal To Scale again The sting Quantity of hours till The prime of 2024, arguing extra time Is required To evaluate the monetary influences to household-owned farming operations.

In a 2019 report, Farm Credit rating East estimated the influence of obligatory further time for farmstaff Collectively with a collection of annual hikes Inside the state minimal wage would increase agricultural labor prices in Ny by $299 million.

Jon Rulfs, operator of Adirondack Farms, said he hopes the wage board shutly examines the influence its choice on The further time question Could have on employers offering tens of hundreds of jobs to farmstaff.

“It’d clearly be a monetary burden on us and A potential burden on The staff because we would Try and Scale again hours,” said Rulfs, 65, a life-prolonged dairy farmer who has grown the enterprise to 120 full-time staff. “In ag, we go 24/7. We work As quickly as we now have to work.”

He said his agency reveals its appreciation to The staff. “We Do not lay anyone off,” he said. “We’re depfinishent on them, and we Try to Look after them.”

Joe Mahoney is the CNHI statehouse reporter for Ny. Attain him at: [email protected]