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February 3, 2022 - 6:42pm

Farm work by migrants helps support families back home; that could change if hours restricted, says local farmer

posted by Howard B. Owens in Torrey Farms, news, agriculture, farm labor, elba.

Porfirio Gabriel has worked for Torrey Farms in Elba for 13 years and helps the Torreys recruit workers from Mexico, specifically Comachuen, to obtain H2A temporary visas and work planting onions and harvesting squash, cabbage, and beans each year.

These workers, Gabriel told NPR for a recent story about money sent from workers back to Mexico to help support local economies, have helped Comachuen families receive as much as $5 million over three years, by far the town's largest source of income.

These funds sent to Mexico, called remittances, may have exceeded $50 billion for the first time last year, according to the story.

Travis Torrey sent the link to the NPR story to The Batavian noting that as regulators try to limit the number of hours farmer workers can labor each week they're really hurting the people they say they're trying to help.

"I think you can see that coming to WNY to work is their version of the ‘American dream,’" Torrey said. "Everyone that has come here has bettered themselves and families.  The inhumanity is denying them the opportunity.

"Without the farmworkers, there would be no farms," he added. "The same can be said if there are no farms there are no farmworkers."

A week ago, the state's Farm Labor Board, on a 2-1 vote, recommended the overtime threshold for farmworkers be lowered from 60 hours a week to 40 hours a week.

Both farmer-owners and farmworkers have repeatedly spoken out against the rule change over the past few years saying that workers will seek jobs in states that don't restrict potential earnings.

Torrey notes the rule change will hurt workers like Gabriel when they get their hours cut.

From the NPR story:

Gabriel is resigned to working in the United States as long as he can. He sends home about $7,500 each year from what he earns working the fields. That money is largely used to fund his children's education, paying private college fees so his eldest son can be a registered nurse.

His hope is that his children will get university degrees and not have to emigrate. "I am paying for their studies, so that they don't have to do what we had to do," Gabriel says.

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