State Farm Bureau president, state senator who represents Potsdam critical of state decision on farm overtime
The state Labor Commissioner opted to start lowering the current overtime threshold for warm workers by the first of the year, and the move was met with criticism from the New York State Farm Bureau and a state Senator who represents Potsdam.
“This is a difficult day for all those who care about New York being able to feed itself,” said Madrid farmer David Fisher, president of the New York Farm Bureau. “Commissioner Reardon’s decision to lower the farm labor overtime threshold will make it even tougher to farm in this state and will be a financial blow to the workers we all support.“Moving forward, farms will be forced to make difficult decisions on what they grow, the available hours they can provide to their employees, and their ability to compete in the marketplace. All of this was highlighted in the testimony and data that the wage board report and the commissioner simply ignored,” Fisher said.
State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) Commissioner Roberta Reardon issued an order Sept. 30 accepting the recommendation of the Farm Laborers Wage Board to lower the current 60-hour threshold for overtime pay to 40 hours per week by Jan. 1, 2032, allowing 10 years to phase in the new threshold.
“The decision made by the state Department of Labor to accept the New York Farm Laborers Wage Board’s recommendation to lower the overtime threshold for farms will have a devastating effect on the state’s agriculture industry,” said state Senator Joe Griffo who currently represents the Potsdam area in the 47th State Senate District.
“While I recognize and respect the important role that farmworkers play in the industry, reducing the overtime threshold is another bad policy supported by the governor and legislative majorities. It is clear that they didn’t listen to or care about the significant and legitimate concerns raised by many across the state, including the New York Farm Bureau, farmers and agriculture-related groups,” Griffo said.
“This disappointing decision will be detrimental to the viability and financial well-being of family farms at a time when many are already struggling,” said Griffo. “It is another example of why so many New Yorkers in recent polls continue to believe that the state is heading in the wrong direction.”
The Farm Laborers Wage Board included its recommendation in a report that the Board voted to advance to the Commissioner during its final meeting on Sept. 6, 2022, following a two-year process and 14 public meetings and hearings.
Following a rule-making process to enact the Commissioner's Order, farm work in excess of 40 hours per week would be required to be compensated at overtime rates, as it is in other occupations.
“I thank the Farm Laborers Wage Board and all New Yorkers who provided insight and input during this inclusive process,” said New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “I come from a farm community myself, so I know how important the agricultural sector is to the New York State economy. Based on the findings, I feel the Farm Laborers Wage Board’s recommendations are the best path forward to ensure equity for farm workers and success for agricultural businesses.”
The Board’s report recommended that the reduction in overtime hours take place by reducing the overtime work limit by 4 hours every other year beginning in 2024 until reaching 40 hours in 2032, giving agriculture businesses proper time to adjust.