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Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
“Look out for the future of family farms”
ALBANY, Dec. 15, 2019 -- There will be plenty to keep close watch over in New York State government at the start of the New Year.
How will Governor Cuomo and the Democrat leaders of the Legislature deal with a $6 billion-plus state budget deficit?
What will be the street-level consequences for public safety once new criminal justice reforms enacted by the governor and legislative leaders earlier this year take effect on January 1?
Let’s not forget this one: A signature action of the 2019 legislative session was the approval of controversial legislation (S6578/A8419, Chapter 105 of the Laws of 2019) known as the “Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act.”
Throughout the past year I have joined many opponents, including the New York Farm Bureau, to warn about the consequences of this action. We fear that mandatory overtime pay and other provisions of the new law, including the creation of a three-member Farm Wage Board granted the authority to unilaterally change the law’s provisions, will worsen the impact of farm labor costs on farm income at a time when the farm economy is already struggling. It could increase already exorbitant farm labor costs by nearly $300 million or close to 20%, resulting in an across-the-board drop in net farm income of 23% -- keeping in mind that over the past five years, New York State has already lost 20 percent of its dairy farms.
I debated and voted against this move when the Senate approved it in June. The bottom line is that this misguided action by a state government triumvirate of leaders under one-party control -- guided on many current issues by a far left, extreme liberal, even Socialist governing philosophy -- has profound implications throughout local farm economies across rural, upstate New York, including driving more family farms out of business.
It was telling, for me, that Governor Cuomo chose not to hold the official ceremony where he signed the Act into law at an upstate New York family farm.
Instead, he went to Manhattan to the offices of the New York Daily News, a liberal big city daily newspaper that had long advocated for the law.
It might be good for Governor Cuomo’s big city politics, but New York’s farm community spoke for itself that day.
“Common ground should have considered what farms can afford and the opportunities our employees will lose as a result of this law. In the end, our reasonable requests were cast aside ... What was also dismissed by many of New York's leaders is the dignity and respect our farm families have long provided to the men and women we need and work alongside every day ... (the law) will still lead to significant financial challenges for farmers and the continued erosion of our rural communities,” said Farm Bureau President and dairy farmer David Fisher.
"This new law failed to take common sense into account, and in turn, will place upstate further behind in its ability to grow our farms and economy. Our farms and farmworkers deserved better,” said Brian Reeves, President of the New York State Vegetable Growers Association.
Northeast Dairy Producers Association President and dairy farmer Jon Greenwood added: “Dairy represents New York’s largest agricultural industry. (This new law) has the potential to both negatively impact the long-term viability of our farms and the earning potential and livelihood of our workers.”
So yes, there is plenty to keep an eye on in 2020.
I know I join many others in calling, at the very least, for continued, aggressive legislative oversight of this Act’s implementation and an ongoing assessment of its impact on the rural, upstate farm economy.
Photo in text: State Senator
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael
Lausell, Van Harp
Bottom row: Carl Blowers, David Reed, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
David M. Reed
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Harriett Vickio, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E.
United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address: http://schumer.senate.gov/webform.html
United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451
State Senator Tom O'Mara
-- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca
(Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano--
Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791