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May 29, 2009 - 10:45am

Farm bill threatens small farmers with higher labor costs

posted by Steve Hawley in agriculture, legislation.

As a former hog and crop farmer and Genesee County Farm Bureau President and a current member of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, I work very hard to ensure that our farms, agriculturalists and rural quality of life are protected.  Newly introduced legislation, Assembly Bill 1867, seriously threatens our farmers and farm workers and I would like to take a moment to share with the public the provisions of this bill.

I have already received many letters, calls and e-mails from residents of the 139th Assembly District expressing their opposition to this bill, which is known as the Farmworkers Omnibus Labor Standards Bill.  While this legislation attempts to establish benefits and bargaining rights for farm workers, the bill threatens the very existence of farm workers by imposing expensive labor mandates which will force more farms, many of which are struggling in this tough economy, to go out of business.

To explicitly outline our concerns with this legislation the entire Assembly Agriculture Committee and I drafted, signed and sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.  Paramount among our concerns is the fact that for the last 30 years, both state and federal laws have been strengthened to protect farmworkers from injustices and unfair treatment, with most farms undergoing a review or inspection on an annual basis.  Any problems that occur on farms are quickly caught by the authorities, making this new legislation redundant and an unnecessary expense to place on farmers and our agricultural community as a whole.

I urge all members of the public to write Speaker Silver as well as the legislation's sponsor, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan to express your concerns with this measure.  You can write to Speaker Silver at LOB 932, Albany, NY 12248 or e-mail him at [email protected]; or contact Assemblywoman Nolan at LOB 836, Albany, NY 12248 or e-mail her [email protected] to express your opposition to this bill.

DOUGLAS MCCLURG
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Nice article Steve, thanks This is an ongoing trend with NYS as to the way they're pushing "all" small businesses out and only the big survive.Is this good for the economy where the small guy gets pressured into more legal structure and less profit. Seems to me like a big Monopoly going on and the only winners will be NYS.No such thing as a profitable mom and pop operation anymore.The wheels have already been set in motion.The tires are turning. In case you think this doesn't affect you because "well I don't work on a farm".Wrong-The food you eat and the thing you do are all affected by government policy.More and more so everyday. I'm all for the small guy making a living on their own,Do we really think NYS Is. The legacy we leave behind is what future generations will have to live with or change Lastly and not leastly-This country was established by the farm industry-our wealth and freedoms in my mind were created by farmers. Lets not make thing any harder on them than it already Is
C. M. Barons
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It is difficult to see Mr. Hawley's argument when he fails to detail the objectionable aspects of the legislation he is panning. Here is a link to the actual language: http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A01867 Except for defining an 8 hour day and establishing an overtime pay rate of time and a half; I don't see anything above and beyond standard labor law/workers' rights. What's his complaint?
John Roach
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Any added cost to the farm will be added to your food bill. If they can not added the cost to your bill, they go under and you can buy more food from Mexico.
Mark Potwora
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I have never understood why the farm minimum wage is less than the normal minimum wage is...And if all this is to give them a wages and work rules that are the same as for some one working at McDonald's then i'm for it...I just want to see illegals not doing any of this work they are the ones that drive labor wages down....Let the Market dictate the prices of food ..Weather is be milk,corn or beef..Let farms play under the same rules as the local pizza shop..Farming is all big business now..If food goes up then it does..If they are keeping wages artifically low to benefit the owners to make more profit then things should be changed.To pay farmers not to grow things to create false prices is wrong..After reading the Bill that CM linked doesn't sound unfair to me..Anything over 40hrs you pay time in a half..with one 24hr period off a week..
Gabor Deutsch
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I dont know about farm worker's minimum wage but i can tell you that without certain subsidies any farmer will grow and raise the most profitable crop or livestock they can according to the market. This trickles down to the consumer. When corn was abundant and in lower demand in the eaighties farmers actually got paid to not grow corn and they grew something else or actually nothing at all. If corn is 50 bucks a bushel and peas 5 bucks a bushel what would you grow ? The next year peas would be imported and cost 100 bucks a bushel. I exagerate to make a point.
Russ Stresing
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C.M., Mr. Hawley hates details.
Peter O'Brien
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Remove the minimum wage all together and prices of everything will come down. Then update the child labor laws since no child is getting their hand caught in a loom anymore. Then remove all subsidies. The food market will balance out. Illegal aliens will go home because who's going to hire an illegal alien when they can get a legal worker for the same money? Will it happen over night? no but things will balance and we won't need bills like this. If you don't like the conditions you work in, it is your responsibility to improve them, not the employers. By working for them for the money you get you agree that it is enough. If you think you want more ask or move on.

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