NY lawmakers debate farm regulation bills

NY Capitol Bureau

Empire State Weekly

FEURA BUSH, N.Y. (NEXSTAR) – A pair of bills in the New York state legislature would put new regulations in place when it comes to the farming industry.

Assembly Republicans say the legislation would adversely affect farmers and laborers alike.

Tim Stanton employs 10 to 20 workers at his farm in Feura Bush and says dealing with spring weather can be tricky.

“There’s often times we won’t work at all when it’s raining and then have to work twice as hard the next day to catch up,” Stanton said.

That’s why he has concerns over the proposed Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act.

The legislation would establish collective bargaining rights for workers, ensuring there are 24 hours of consecutive rest per week, and require overtime pay.

“Our workers right now average $950 a week in pay and 40 hours they’re only going to be getting $550 a week.”

Stanton says local farmers may have to start producing less labor-intensive goods.

“A lot of the crops that we grow are very labor intensive the small fruits, so berries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries a lot of hand labor to pick them. So we would probably have to do more things that are machine oriented.”

The State Senate held three hearings on the matter, but, Assembly Republicans say “the Assembly has done nothing whatsoever to engage with New Yorkers in the same manner.”

“One of the strengths of our country and why we’re so great is because our food cost is only about nine percent,” Tague said. “If you look at a lot of the other countries even a lot of powerful countries their food costs are around 24 percent. A bill like this would increase the food cost which in another sense would lessen our strength.”

A statement from Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, who chairs the Assembly Agriculture Committee, says in part that she and the chair of the Assembly Labor Committee “paid very close attention to the hearings that were conducted by their Senate colleagues” and that they “are instead holding smaller meetings in order to find common ground and a path forward.”

“Farming is not a get rich scheme. There’s a lot of sectors in farming that I’d say are right on the edge where they’re just barely making a living as it is. What they don’t need is another obstacle to overcome,” Stanton said.

The legislation still sits in committee.

A Farm Credit East Knowledge Exchange report estimates mandatory overtime pay for farm employees would increase labor costs more than 17 percent for farms.

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