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Column: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano
Farm Laborers Wage Board is out of touch and tone-deaf
ALBANY, Sept. 7, 2022 -- The unelected Farm Laborers Wage Board has delivered a tone-deaf and financially devastating final recommendation for the family farms in New York state by recommending to lower the overtime threshold from 60 hours to 40 hours.
This comes at a time when we are experiencing record 40-year high inflation. Gas prices remain high and grocery bills are skyrocketing. This decision, if approved by Gov. Hochul, which shows just how out of touch the Wage Board is, will have a negative ripple effect on our state’s economy that will be felt by consumers, farmworkers and, most importantly, on the family farm. Ninety-eight percent of farms in New York are considered family farms and they have been operating at tight profit margins through COVID-19, supply chain issues and burdensome regulations out of Albany. This Wage Board recommendation could decimate the family farm as we know it.
The Wage Board has failed to consider that before the Farm Labor Act was passed in 2019, farm labor costs in New York as a percentage of net farm income were already 63%, compared to just 36% nationally. Our farmers have been at a competitive disadvantage for years.
Seventy percent of the testimony in front of the Wage Board by both farmers and farmworkers was in support of keeping the threshold at its current 60 hours. In addition to the overwhelming support, we can see the devastating effects of lowering the threshold in a recent Farm Credit East study. The study predicts a whopping $129 million increase in annual costs to farmers, including a 42% increase in farm labor costs and a decrease of 20% in net farm income. This is simply not sustainable. This is simply not right. A Cornell University study showed two-thirds of dairy farmers said a lowering from 60 hours to 40 hours would cause them to move out of milk production or leave the agriculture industry entirely.
This now goes to Gov. Hochul for a final decision. The fate of the family farm and the entire agriculture industry in the state now falls at her doorstep. I join my colleagues, members of the Farm Bureau, industry leaders, farmworkers , most importantly, farmers in calling on Gov. Hochul to reject lowering the overtime threshold.
Note: Palmesano is urging residents to call the governor’s office at 518-474-8390 and Labor Commissioner Reardon’s office at 518-457-9000 to ask them to preserve the family farm in New York state and not reduce the overtime threshold. It is important to remind them, he said, of this: "NO FARMS, NO FARMWORKERS. NO FARMS, NO FOOD."
Top row (from left): Carl Blowers, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell
Bottom row: David Reed, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro
Carl Blowers, 535-6174 or 237-5469
Gary Gray, 292-9922
Jim Howell, 535-7266 or 227-1141
David M. Reed, 796-9558
Michael Lausell, 227- 9226
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482
Mark Rondinaro, 398-0648
Laurence W. Jaynes, 742-9135
County Clerk: Theresa Philbin, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Holley Sokolowski, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano--
Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869