NY Farm Overtime Threshold Changing: “The Whole Thing Is No Good” Farmer Says
"It's going to hurt the farmer, the workers, and it's gonna hurt the taxpayers," said Upstate New York Farmer Ben Simons on Friday.
He was reacting to news that NYS Department of Labor is moving forward with a plan to lower the threshold for overtime on farmers across the state. Farmer workers in NY are currently paid their flat or regular rate for 60 hours of work, not getting overtime pay until hour 61 and beyond.
However, that threshold will be reduced by one-third over the next decade, incrementally falling from 60- to 40-hours by 2032.
The first reduction comes in 2024, officials said.
State Senator Joe Griffo also blasted Friday's announcement, releasing a statement saying it "will have a devastating effect on the state's agriculture industry."
"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," the Republican from Rome 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."
To account for their increased labor costs, farmers will be eligible for three different tax credits, state officials have said.
But Simons, a past president of the Oneida County Farm Bureau, said the policy comes from a misunderstanding the farm community.
"The whole thing is no good. It's bad policy...it was developed out of New York City because they thought we were abusing our workers," due to the high overtime threshold, he said. "The cost for farmers just keeps going up. Many workers will likely see fewer hours because of this, and earn less money. And, the tax credits are paid for by taxpayers."
Simons argues the increased cost of business raises prices and makes NY farms products less competitive. He also said a survey sent to farmers across the state found more than 70% weren't in favor of the change.
The decision came from NYS Labor Department 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," Reardon said in a news release announcing the change.
The full announcement from the labor department, and a breakdown of the tax credits being made available to farmers can be found here.