From left, Dale Stein, Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer and Dean Norton.
Following the defeat of a farm labor bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee this week, New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton said agriculture leaders are more than willing to sit down with farm labor advocates and discuss compromise legislation.
He said while proponents of the recently defeated bill said they agreed to compromise on changes, that isn't really how it worked.
"There was no compromise," Norton said. "They came in and said, ‘OK, we tweaked it a little bit. Take it or leave it.’ In my world, that’s not a compromise."
Now that the bill is dead, Norton said maybe the farm-labor advocates will realize they tried to take too big a bite out of the apple, and will be willing to sit down and really talk.
"I think with 2247B being defeated, perhaps we have the opportunity to go back and have that open dialogue," Norton said. "I hope the other side really takes the opportunity to do that."
Norton's remarks came at the end of a press conference with Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer to discuss the bill's defeat.
Ranzenhofer thanked Norton and Genesee County farmers, with dairyman Dale Stein at his side, for their efforts to help defeat the bill, which he said would have killed agriculture in New York.
Getting the bill out of the labor committee -- where he said it was just rubber-stamped -- and into the agriculture committee was key to giving the bill a fair hearing and have it publicly weighed on its merits.
The hearings, he said, brought in both opponents and proponents of the bill.
Ranzenhofer once again praised the work of Daily News staff writer Tom Rivers for his series on farm labor, which he said opened eyes in Albany to what farm labor is really like, and made it harder for bill supporters to spread misinformation about farm-labor practices.
Stein said the misinformation spread by bill supporters really made him unhappy.
"Where can you make $34,000 or $35,000 a year in Genesee County without a high school diploma, without a driver's license?" Stein asked rhetorically. "On a farm. You can’t do it anywhere else. They’re not telling the truth about what the farm workers are making. And that’s my real disagreement with them."
A key factor in getting the bill defeated, Ranzenhofer acknowledged, was the willingness of Sen. Darrel Aubertine, a Democrat from the Watertown area, to buck his party and get the bill moved into the ag committee, which he chairs.
Aubertine is the first Democrat in 100 years to represent that area of New York in the Senate. His district still leans Republican, but based on comments from Ranzenhofer today (in response to a reporter's question), it doesn't sound like the GOP will cut Aubertine any slack in November's election.
Asked if Ranzenhofer would endorse Aubertine, Ranzenhofer said flatly, "No."
"At the end of the day," Ranzenhofer said, "when you vote for a budget, like he did last year, that increases taxes $8.5 billion, increases spending over $12 billion, I mean that to me is a non-starter. When you take a position like that, which continues to kill the whole economy in the State of New York, I mean, I didn’t vote that way. I don’t support that point of view and I can’t support senators who advocate for increasing taxes and increasing spending."