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farm labor bill

August 7, 2019 - 3:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, farm labor bill, kathy hochul, video.
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In an interview with The Batavian following an event at the Genesee County Fair Grounds, where Lt. Kathy Hochul participated in the announcement of a new workforce development program (more later), Hochul defended passage of the farm labor bill.

She said it was needed, even though it was opposed by farmers and farmworkers, because it will improve working conditions for farmworkers and help farmers attract more qualified job candidates.

Hochul said what's missing in complaints about the farm labor bill is that farmers participated in crafting compromise legislation.

July 18, 2019 - 1:07pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, farm labor bill, agriculture.

A Statement from Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) on Gov. Cuomo signing the Farm Labor Bill into law July 17:

“The largest farm in New York City is a seasonal pumpkin patch but that didn’t stop radical politicians from dictating how our farms should operate. This disastrous legislation, ironically signed in a place with no farms, has the potential to single-handedly destroy family farming in New York as we know it.

“To make matters worse, the newly-created Wage Board, stacked with more big-labor, big-union interests than actual farmers, can unilaterally alter the labor laws how they see fit moving forward.

“Altering the maximum number of hours allowed per week or reversing the ‘no strike clause’ at any moment, goes completely against the farming industry’s standard practices where crop yields, weather patterns and labor needs are consistently fluid. If a farm can’t operate because of unavoidable weather conditions or  because workers are mandated time off – the repercussions will be devastating.

“What these big-city politicians don’t understand is that our family farms are always under the gun since our growing season is virtually half of California and Florida – making reliable labor, many times seven days of week, a necessity.

“As the former owner and operator of our family farm in Batavia, I know first hand how devastating this could be to our industry. As a former president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau and 14-year member of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, I’ve spoken with many farmers and producers about this bill and its devastating effects unlike the New York City politicians who crafted this disaster. Their concerns were voiced yet ignored.

“Our family farms are not corporations, they are not run by money-hungry business people, they are ordinary families like yours and mine who have learned this art from prior generations and intend to pass it on to their children. It’s what they love, and I will always stand behind them to fight these new regulations in any way I can.”

July 17, 2019 - 4:47pm

Today, July 17, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act (S6578/A8419). It was voted on and passed by the New York State Assembly and Senate last month.

Proponents claim the new law will extend basic labor protections to New York State’s farmworkers by allowing them the right to collectively bargain and get overtime pay.

It was sponsored by Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Senator Jessica Ramos, both of Queens.

Western New York farmers and lawmakers were among those who lobbied against the legislation, citing the devastating impact it could have on family farms and agriculture, the primary economic driver of the region.

Upon its passage in the Senate in June, Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer said: "This is just another example of Downstate legislators who do not understand the Upstate economy. This will impose hundreds of millions of dollars in mandates onto farms who are already struggling. Simply put, it is going to eliminate jobs and put farms out of business."

For the complete post with reactions after the Senate passage of the bill, click here.

Below is a press release sent this afternoon from Grow NY Farms on the Governor's signature today creating the new law.

For months, hundreds of farmers and farmworkers spent countless hours seeking to find a balance with elected officials on measures that will change working conditions on farms across New York State. However, the measure that ultimately passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor on July 17 did not address the challenges and needs of farmers and farmworkers.

This measure does not create a path that will assure an economically viable New York agriculture industry, and the four fixable flaws within this bill will likely drive more family-owned farms out of the state or out of business. Worst of all, farmworkers will feel the impacts the most because their work hours will be restricted and their income reduced.

Grow NY Farms has been seeking to correct four fundamental flaws contained in the new legislation (Assembly Bill No. 8419 and Senate Bill No. 6578). Modifications include:

  • Applying a standard wage rate for farmworkers who decide to work on the prescribed day of rest.
  • Expanding the family farm definition to include close relatives such as aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.
  • Modifying the composition and timeline of the wage board.
  • Preserving secret balloting for both farmworkers and farmers.

“New York's farmers have been at the table from the beginning asking for a workable solution, a bill that would provide the balance agriculture would need to sustain itself as an important job creator and food provider in this state. Common ground should have considered what farms can afford and the opportunities our employees will lose as a result of this law. In the end, our reasonable requests were cast aside, even though there was support for a moderated bill from legislators on both sides of the aisle. What was also dismissed by many of New York's leaders is the dignity and respect our farm families have long provided to the men and women we need and work alongside every day. While the final legislation signed by the Governor is certainly better than the original version of the bill, it will still lead to significant financial challenges for farmers and the continued erosion of our rural communities,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau president and dairy farmer in Madrid.

"It is upsetting that state lawmakers have placed rural New York at a serious disadvantage in our ability to compete in the market place and provide economic opportunities for our employees. This new law failed to take common sense into account, and in turn, will place Upstate further behind in its ability to grow our farms and economy. Our farms and farmworkers deserved better for all that they provide this state,” said Brian Reeves, of Reeves Farms in Baldwinsville and president of the New York State Vegetable Growers Association.

“Long Island has a proud tradition of being a source that New Yorkers turn to for fresh food, wine, flowers, landscape plants and more. Our farms have also provided good, quality opportunities for our employees to get job experience and support their families at home and abroad and have the potential to advance their careers. Sadly, those days are numbered as the farm labor bill will force dramatic changes on agriculture as we know it. It won’t just be our farm families and employees who will suffer, but our customers who value what it means to buy “Grown on Long Island.” Unfortunately, by the time that the legislators who voted for this misguided bill realize the damage they have done to the agricultural industry on Long Island and the rest of the State of New York, it will be too late. This is a sad day for all of us,” said Karl Novak, president of the Long Island Farm Bureau.

“Dairy represents New York’s largest agricultural industry. Our farms must operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in order to care for our cows and produce fresh, nutritious milk. We certainly appreciate that legislators who listened to the many voices expressed by stakeholders in trying to negotiate a bill fair to everyone, but we were disappointed in language added in the final hours that has the potential to both negatively impact the long-term viability of our farms and the earning potential and livelihood of our workers,” said Jon Greenwood, president of Northeast Dairy Producers Association and dairy farmer in Canton.

“My family has a long history of supplying fresh fruit to our Hudson Valley community every year, and we have seen our business diversify into building a cidery, but we are worried that the tradition we have built is now in jeopardy with the signing of this legislation. We are proud of our workforce and the benefits we provide them, but the massive increase in labor costs coming down the pike because of this new law will make it difficult to sustain the business that has lasted for generations and one that I hoped to continue. I’m afraid this could be the breaking point for our orchard and many like ours across the state,” said Sarah Dressel, of Dressel Farms in New Paltz and Chairperson of the New York Apple Association’s Board of Directors.

“Today’s job market is competitive, and many farmers provide their workers with optional days of rest, sick and holiday pay, and other benefits. I appreciate New York’s effort to ensure all farms are doing this, however, by limiting worker hours, we are taking away opportunity that many are seeking. Employees do not want to work simply to live – they enjoy farming and want to save for their families and their future. This bill does not include fixes that are needed to help our farms and farmworkers thrive. The reality is clear, our workers will pack their bags and seek opportunity in another state,” said Jose Iniguez, vice president of Lamont Fruit Farms in Waterport and former farmworker.

“This spring, New York’s family farms faced some of the toughest planting conditions we’ve seen in years, and continue struggling to compete against regional and national competitors. Our challenges have been compounded due to recent actions by state officials who have endorsed policies that are fundamentally changing our businesses and threatening the viability of New York’s farm community.  We are urging the Governor to fix several flaws in the Farm Labor bill in order to support the future of New York’s growers, harvesters and dairy producers,” said David Zittel, president of Amos, Zittel and Sons in Eden.

“The Farm Labor will bring about unintended, yet devastating changes to our state’s agriculture sector. The farmworkers who work side-by-side with farm owners and their families want to see this industry continue to grow and diversify, and they understand they are big part of each of our farms’ success. However, this legislation will force many growers and dairy producers to lay off workers or cut hours in order to remain competitive. Far worse is that some will make the difficult decision to cease farming – and New York’s consumers will see prices increase and their source of fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products diminish. We want to grow our farms, employ more staff, and continue providing the best workplace possible for our workers. The Governor must fix several flaws in this legislation in order to support the more than 30,000 farms across Upstate and on Long Island – and without action, he will be sacrificing those who were counting on him the most,” said Dale-Illa Riggs of The Berry Patch in Stephentown and President of the NYS Berries Association.

For a full list of Grow NY Farms campaign supporters, visit: GrowNYFarms.com

June 20, 2019 - 7:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, farm labor bill, agriculture, business.

From Senator Michael Ranzenhofer:

The New York State Senate passed the “Farm Workers Bill.” State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer (R-C-I, Amherst) voted against it.

Senator Ranzenhofer has issued the following statement:

“Today’s passage of the Farm Workers Bill is devastating to our local farms. It does not take into consideration the economic and practical realities of farming. I have heard from and met with both farmers and farm workers who have shared the crippling impact this legislation would have on them.

“This is just another example of Downstate legislators who do not understand the Upstate economy. This will impose hundreds of millions of dollars in mandates onto farms who are already struggling. Simply put, it is going to eliminate jobs and put farms out of business.

“Furthermore, I am disappointed that such a critical bill would be introduced at the last minute and not ever be considered by the Senate Agriculture Committee or reviewed by the public.”

From Senator Rob Ortt, ranking minority member of the Senate Agriculture Committee:

“Tonight’s passage of the Farmworker Labor Act is disappointing and further displays the disconnect between state Democrats and Western New Yorkers. For months, I toured farms across western New York and spoke about this legislation with hundreds of workers, employees and community residents.

Employers and employees alike pleaded that this bill would destroy small family farms. With New York State farm closure rates already triple the national average, this legislation will grow the closure rate and devastate the number one economic driver in New York.

My chief concern when Democrats took over the entirety of state government was that Upstate would be ignored. Incredibly, it has gone further than that and Upstate is now being attacked by radical New York City regressives. Their willing accomplices include Democrats from the rest of the state, the Business Council, and the State Farm Bureau, who – sadly – should have all known better.

From Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

"My administration has proudly fought for working men and women across the board, from raising the minimum wage to strengthening worker protections in nail salons and the home healthcare industry. We believe all workers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect -- period.

"Over the weekend, I issued a reformed farm workers bill of rights, which guarantees farm workers will finally be granted basic rights to protect them from abusive and exploitive working conditions.

"With the passage of this legislation, we will help ensure every farm worker receives the overtime pay and fair working conditions they deserve. The constitutional principles of equality, fairness and due process should apply to all of us. I am proud that, with the help of my daughters' years-long advocacy on this critical issue, we got it done."

From Grow NY Farms:

For months, New York’s agriculture community worked with a purpose to meet a fundamental goal of developing farm labor legislation that would protect the combined interests of farms and farm workers. We negotiated in good faith with many majority lawmakers who were interested in hearing from those who would be directly impacted by the legislation.

Political realities meant we had to come to find a middle ground that was mutually beneficial.

We thought we had achieved that goal with a bill that while posing significant challenges for a struggling Industry, it was a vast improvement than where we started. Unfortunately, there were some flaws thrown into the legislation in the final days of this legislative session that made the bill unacceptable. Despite the passage of this flawed legislation (S.6578/A.8419), we have not given up on finding a way to fix those flaws.

These flaws include:

1.       A requirement that wages paid on the seventh consecutive day of work – are based on an overtime rate -- if a farmworker waives their right to a day of rest.

2.       The definition of family fails to recognize the role of close relatives such as aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins – and would make their participation in farm activities subject to the new statute.

3.       The creation of a wage board lacks New York’s key agency expert on agricultural issues – the State Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets.

4.       Elections involving the ability to form a union lack the integrity of a secret ballot.

At this time, we believe it is in the interest of all parties to continue working together to address these flaws and move forward with legislation that farmers, farm workers and the labor community can mutually embrace and reflect the spirit of the dialogue and discussion that has taken place in recent months.

It is also important to note the significant role played by all the farmers, farm workers and lawmakers who worked to build consensus on this issue.

Grow NY Farms represents a coalition of more than 50 New York farms, organizations, and local businesses. To learn more, visit www.GrowNYFarms.com.

June 19, 2019 - 3:38pm

A Statement from Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) on passage of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act:

“As the former owner and operator of our family farm for decades, I know these new mandates will devastate New York’s family farms and disrupt the industry beyond repair – an industry that generates $4.8 billion in annual revenue. 

“Agriculture is a unique industry where production and success are contingent upon steady and reliable labor, and implementing more handcuffs on our farm owners and restricting the availability of that labor while increasing its costs will be devastating. 

“Furthermore, mandating time-and-a-half overtime pay for any hours over 60 in a week is just not practical. Our farmers are constantly fighting flooding, drought and unpredictable weather patterns that often require unpredictable work hours, which is ultimately necessary to achieve success in the business. 

“What’s more troubling is the establishment of a new board, headed by big-labor special interests, to further examine farm labor. The board wrongly excludes the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets and will undoubtedly heap mandate upon mandate and cost upon cost upon our family farms. We need to leave this industry alone and allow the farmers themselves, many of whom have been perfecting their craft for generations, to run their businesses as they see fit without government intrusion. 

“New York City lawmakers have been behind this legislation from the beginning. Shocking, considering there are virtually no family farms in New York City. It’s an authoritarian overreach to dictate one of Upstate’s cornerstone industries from the towers and skyscrapers of the big city – another reason we need to consider my ‘Two New Yorks’ legislation. 

“I voted no on these big government farm mandates and will always stand with the tried and true producers of Western New York before Downstate lawmakers.”

June 12, 2019 - 5:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, farm workers, farm labor bill, video.
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This morning a group of farmers and farm workers gathered in the parking lot of Farm Credit East before heading to Albany to participate in a rally against a proposed bill that would give farm workers the right to join unions and restrict their working hours to eight hours a day and 40 hours a week.

May 24, 2019 - 10:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, news, farm labor bill.

Farmworkers have the right to form unions and collectively bargain for wages and working conditions, a New York appellate court ruled this week in a decision that also denied the respondent in the case an opportunity for a hearing on the topic.

The ruling drew a swift rebuke from the respondent, the New York Farm Bureau. The Farm Bureau issued the following statement:

“We are extremely disappointed in the majority’s decision and the breadth of its ruling. The Appellate Court was considering the trial court’s decision on a motion to dismiss, which, if denied would have permitted Farm Bureau to fully litigate this case in the trial court.

"Instead, the majority of the court decided to make a far-reaching determination by declaring the right to collectively bargain as a “fundamental right,” on par with the freedoms of speech and religion. We believe that the majority’s conclusion is unsupportable and disregards decades of precedent.

"The court’s dissenting opinion exposed the flaws in the majority’s ruling and identified that the decision eliminates Farm Bureau’s right to defend the constitutionality of the statute in a trial court. 

"Speaking more broadly, if the legislature, and now the courts do not recognize the value of preserving a viable and economically sustainable food production system in the state, New York agriculture will continue to shrink under a mountain of mandates.

"Our rural economy and local job opportunities will suffer. And New Yorkers will find it harder to access New York grown food, instead, relying on food brought in from out of state, or worse yet, out of the country to feed their families. New York Farm Bureau fully intends to appeal the court’s ill-conceived ruling.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley also criticized the ruling.

“The New York state Appellate Court got this wrong. I’m deeply disappointed, both in the substance of the ruling and in the judicial overreach which prevents the New York Farm Bureau from appropriately litigating this case in trial court. Make no mistake, if the Court of Appeals doesn’t overturn this decision, it will mark the end of family farms in New York state, wiping out hundreds of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in economic impact and generations of time-honored tradition older than New York state itself. It’s imperative that the New York Farm Bureau’s appeal is successful,” said Hawley.

The issue is also part of a contentious dispute in the state Legislature over proposed changes in state labor law that, if passed as currently written, would give farmworkers the right to organize and also institute for farmworkers an eight-hour workday, and a 40-hour work week. These provisions, farmers, and farmworkers say would devastate the state's agriculture industry.

The ruling potentially takes away a bargaining chip from opponents of the bill by granting the bill sponsors one of the changes in law they are seeking.

State Senator Rob Ortt, the ranking minority party member of the Agriculture Committee was also unhappy with the ruling.

“After today’s ruling, the last thing we need to do is pass the Farmworkers Fair Labor Act, which goes far beyond today’s ruling, and adds even more regulations on the backs of those responsible for growing our food.”

The ruling, of course, was applauded by those who support labor unions for farmworkers.

“The court’s ruling today was unequivocal that denying farmworkers basic labor rights is flat-out unconstitutional, and farmworkers, like other workers, have the right to organize,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of NYCLU told the New York Law Journal. “The workers on whom we depend for the food on our tables have the right to be treated humanely and with dignity, like any other hardworking New Yorker.”

The Cuomo administration has recently openly supported the move to allow farmworkers to collectively bargain and Attorney General Letitia James said she supported the decision.

The state did not defend itself from the lawsuit filed three years ago by former farmworker Crispin Hernandez, leaving it to the Farm Bureau to represent farmers' interests.

The lawsuit challenged the State Labor Relations Act, passed in 1937, that granted broad rights for workers to organize but specifically excluded farmworkers.

Critics of the exclusion claim the exclusion has its roots in Jim Crow practices (not, at the time, unknown in New York, though generally thought of as practices in the early 20th century in the Deep South) that discriminated against blacks. That history factored into the plaintiff's arguments.

The case was heard by the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department.  The majority opinion as written by Justice Christine M. Clark.

The plaintiff's attorneys argued that the 1937 act denied their client equal protection under the law and infringed on a fundamental right to organize and collectively bargain and also violated New York's Constitution. A provision passed at a constitutional convention in 1938 afforded employees the right to organize.

Clark found that constitutional meaning of "employee" included farmworkers.

Indeed, there is nothing in the language of the constitutional provision to support the suggestion that the drafters intended for the term "employees" to be narrowed or limited in any way. Accordingly, when the term "employees" is given its natural and ordinary meaning, we think it clear that the constitutional right to organize and collectively bargain extends to individuals employed as farm laborers

In his lone dissent, Justice  Stan L. Pritzker noted that the constitutional convention was held a year after the labor act was passed so the framers certainly had a very clear understanding of the law as written and did not intend to include farmworkers in the constitutional provision allowing employees to organize.

He also did not include the right to organize in his list of fundamental rights even though the right to assembly (and by extension, according to prior Supreme Court cases, the right to free association) is part of the Bill of Rights. 

From his dissent:

Fundamental rights are those deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition. They include the right to marry; the right to have children; the right to decide how one's children will be educated; and the right to engage in private consensual sexual activity."

Fundamental rights also include the right to vote, the right to travel, the right of free speech and the right of a criminal defendant to appeal. One need only imagine and compare laws that would prevent farm laborers from exercising freedom of speech, voting, traveling, marrying, raising children or appealing criminal convictions to recognize the distinction and understand why a fundamental constitutional right is not implicated here.

Further, the inclusion of the right to organize and bargain collectively in the New York Bill of Rights does not, per se, confer upon it fundamental constitutional right status (citations omitted).

The dispute over whether the right to organize is a fundamental right is important because if it's a fundamental right, it would carry more weight than the 1937 law as passed by the Legislature.

The Farm Bureau will be able to appeal the ruling to the state's Court of Appeals.

May 19, 2019 - 6:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in farm labor bill, farm labor, agriculture, news, notify, corfu, video.
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Sen. Rob Ortt visited Reyncrest Farms in Corfu on Friday as part, he said, of regular visits to farms in Upstate New York to learn more about the potential impact of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act.

He said he feels obligated to do it because the supporters of the bill, who have no farms or farmworkers in their districts, aren't doing it and they're not holding hearings on the bill in Western New York.

"We know that the sponsor is not visiting farms," Ortt said "She doesn't have a farm in her district. So I'm trying to fill that void to push back on some of these narratives that are being justified as to why we need to have this legislation in New York."

Ortt is the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee. He's also a potential candidate for the Republic primary race in the 27th Congressional District.

Sen. Jessica Ramos, chair of the Senate Labor Committee, and a first-term representative from Queens, is the Senate sponsor of the bill. She did visit Genesee County a few weeks ago and met with farmers and farmworkers and tried to prevent the press from covering her visit. She heard from many farmworkers who said they didn't support the legislation because it would mean they would make less money.

The bill, as written currently, would give farmworkers the right to join labor unions, as well as mandate an eight-hour workday and 40-hour work week. Both farmers and farmworkers say it is the cap on work hours that will do the most economic damage.

Earlier this month, Ortt lead a roundtable discussion of the bill and afterward indicated a willingness to negotiate on both of those main points. Friday he said that willingness is based on the feedback he's getting from farmers who tell him, he said, that if passage of such a bill is inevitable, then can it at least be made less draconian?

So far, he said, he's seen little willingness by the sponsors to negotiate.

Reyncrest is exactly the kind of family-owned dairy farm that stands to be most severely hurt by the legislation if it passes as is, he said.

"They have three farmers, (ages) 28, 26, and 25 -- a new generation, right? The next generation of farmers here to keep this going," Ortt said. "But they need to be able to sustain each of those individuals. This farm needs to be profitable for all three of those family members and if they can't make it a go, maybe they're unable to continue on and that impacts consumers.

"That impacts folks here in New York State who want to buy their products from New York State farmers, who want to buy their products from locally grown farms, locally grown here in New York. And so every time we add onto the burden here, and especially when it's being done by people who haven't stepped foot on a farm, who don't understand the dynamics of what they're doing, now I think that should be a real cause for concern for all New Yorkers."

April 11, 2019 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in farm labor bill, farm labor, news, agriculture, Le Roy, notify.

 

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Proposed changes to farm labor practices in New York would likely destroy the state's agriculture industry, with a spill-over effect on many other businesses in local communities, and ultimately lead to families getting out of farming, a group of local farms said Wednesday at a press conference at Stein Farms in Le Roy.

The farmers gathered to raise concerns about the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act now making its way through the New York State Legislature.

"We're at the point I think where this has the potential to be the single greatest economic devastating effect on agriculture in New York in my lifetime," said Dale Stein, senior partner at Stein Farms.

The bill's chief sponsor and supporter, Sen. Jessica Ramos, from Queens, is in Batavia today, as a guest of Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, to meet with area farmers and listen to their concerns. The press conference was called in advance of that meeting so farmers could share their concerns with the broader public.

"We just aren't heard now very well by Downstate And it's not they're not good people and don't care. They do. Our people want to work. They don't want 40 hours a week. They don't want eight hours a day as my staff tell me. I don't want to sit home and watch TV. I'd rather come and work. We offer them extra hours if they want they come and work. They don't want us at home. They want to make all the money they can."

Stein, along with Jeff Toussaint, an Albion farmer, and Jim Starowitz, a farm employee in Byron, not only talked about the potential costs of the bill, which would institute new overtime rules, reduce weekly working hours, and other regulatory burdens for farms, but also how unnecessary the bill is because of laws already in place, the above-minimum-wage pay scales in place at farms now, and the desire of farm workers to work while there's money to be made.

The bill would also allow farm workers to join labor unions.

"I'm here to tell you that apples are a perishable crop and I can't emphasize that enough," Toussaint said. "They have to be harvested on time. If apples are left in the orchard too long they become soft and we're unable to store them. In just a matter of a few days of becoming overripe, they can lose 50 to 75 percent of their original value. A strike during harvest season would ultimately be catastrophic."

Starowitz said the increased costs associated with the bill would eventually put a lot of farm workers out of work.

"The costs are an additional $200,000 a year," Starowtiz said. "That equates to an extra $32 a tonne (aka metric ton), or almost a thousand dollars an acre. If all states where there are growers are on the same level, we could pass our cost along like every other business.

"But this is a state law that puts us in a noncompetitive position with other states. It increases labor cost and over time we will be no longer able to raise our vegetables. We'll have to move to a row-crop-only business or close our doors."

Maureen Torrey, co-owner of Torrey Farms, joined the conversation and said besides making it harder for her to compete nationally, the proposed changes will also make it harder to attract farm labor to New York.

"We have a limited pool even of visa workers," Torrey said. "They're going to go work where they can get a minimum of 60 hours or more."

February 11, 2019 - 2:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in michael ranzenhofer, farm labor bill, business, agriculture.

Press release:

Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has shared his concerns with recently reintroduced legislation, the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act (S2837), in a letter to the bill’s Senate sponsor, Senator Jessica Ramos.

Senator Ranzenhofer is requesting that the bill’s sponsor garner feedback from the agriculture industry.

“For years, many local farmers have shared their fears regarding serious unintended consequences of this legislation,” said Ranzenhofer in the letter. “Agriculture is the largest industry in the state, and I believe it is critically important that local farmer concerns and the concerns of the greater agriculture community be heard.”

Senator Ranzenhofer believes that the proposal could have a devastating impact on local jobs and family farms.

“Simply put, the stakes have never been higher for farmers across New York State and additional employer mandates could have catastrophic consequences for many rural Upstate communities and consumers,” Ranzenhofer said.

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