Farm groups advocate for delay in Farm Laborers Wage Board report

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(AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File )

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – New York State’s final Farm Laborers Wage Board hearing is taking place virtually tonight. The board is supposed to put together a report by the end of the year advising whether the overtime threshold for farm laborers should be lowered.

Since the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act went into effect this year, workers have been entitled to overtime pay after hitting 60 hours per week, or if they work on their day off. And, as part of the law, a board was created to come up with a report by December 31st, looking into whether that overtime threshold should be lowered. “I think that there is no way that the board can make an educated decision in just a few months. And what I mean by that is, I think it will take years to collect data for the board to make you know, a true educated decision,” said Northeast Dairy Producers Association Executive Director Tonya Van Slyke.

Van Slyke says there needs to be more time for the state to look at the financial costs before proceeding with a report, especially with the impact COVID-19 has had. “Dairy products are not only sold you know inside the United States, but the export market exporting our dairy products is also part of the overall formula for marketing milk so you can imagine the export markets, obviously just about came to a halt,” she said. She also says schools and restaurants are other big consumers. 

In a statement Steve Ammerman, with the New York Farm Bureau said, “The hearing testimony has shown it is too soon for the wage board to be able to make a sound recommendation on lowering the overtime threshold. Having more time and transparency in the process would benefit all involved. We are in the middle of just the first harvest season under the new law, along with a pandemic that has brought unpredictability to the markets, and NYFB believes we need several more years of data to understand the long term impacts the new labor law is having on farms, their employees and our local food system.”

Republican lawmakers are supporting legislation to extend the deadline for the Farm Laborers Wage Board report to 2024. The board is convened by the state’s Labor Commissioner. We asked a spokesperson at the Department of Labor if the board still plans to submit its report by the end of the year, and about the legislation to delay it. She said the Department does “not comment on proposed legislation.”

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