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Combined with the rising minimum wage, Farm Credit East reports net farm income will drop 23%.

March 11, 2019

3 Min Read
Judi Whittaker, Jeff Williams, David Fisher, Brian Reeves and Sarah Dressel represent the New York Farm Bureau
LABOR LOBBYING: During its annual lobby day in Albany, representatives of New York Farm Bureau outlined the potential hardships farmers could face if a proposed farm labor act is passed. From left are dairy farmer Judi Whittaker; Jeff Williams, director of public policy; David Fisher, president of Farm Bureau; vegetable farmer Brian Reeves; and fruit farmer Sarah Dressel.Photo courtesy of New York Farm Bureau

An analysis by Farm Credit East shows that allowing overtime on New York farms will increase labor costs by 17%.

New York Farm Bureau highlighted the report during its annual lobby day in Albany.

The additional labor costs would also take a significant bite out of net farm income, especially at a time when the farm economy is suffering. When combined with the rising minimum wage, net farm income will drop by 23%, according to the report.

The more labor-intensive commodities would take an even bigger hit. The report states that vegetable growers will see net farm income decline by 43%; greenhouse and nursery operations by 58%; fruit growers by 74%; and dairy farms by 101%. These numbers are based on a five-year average of financial results.

The proposed Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act would require overtime pay on farms. It would also grant collective bargaining rights to farmworkers and allow at least 24 hours of rest each week.

The annual lobby day drew more than 200 farmers to the state capital where they met with their representatives.

David Fisher, president of New York Farm Bureau, said the current farm economy is causing hardship across the state. According to the USDA, New York has lost nearly 20% of its dairy farms in the past five years.

“We understand supporters of this bill mean well. We also mean well. We greatly appreciate the contributions our farmworkers make to our farms and our food supply, but these numbers demonstrate that it will be incredibly difficult for farms to meet the proposed labor mandates. It would be difficult for farms to compete in the marketplace when they can’t control their prices and must take what the markets demand,” Fisher said.

Judi Whittaker of Whittaker Farms, a dairy farm that’s been in her family for 100 years, said the act’s overtime provision would raise the payroll on her farm by more than $200,000 from the current $500,000.

“We value our employees greatly,” she said. “We house our employees and pay them everything they need free of charge. Having the payroll go up by that much will put us out of business. We haven’t paid ourselves in pretty much a year. We are trying to do what is right and paying our employees and paying our bills. My family is at the bottom of the list. There needs to be a more workable number to keep those of us family farms here for the future. You all eat. You need us.”

Sarah Dressel of Dressel Farms in New Paltz, an apple operation, said new overtime rules would greatly lower her farm’s profitability. The farm already uses the H-2A guest worker program, and the rate this year is $13 an hour. Required overtime, she said, would be a tough pill to swallow.

“Workers that come through the H-2A program want to work as many hours as they can within their contract dates, and I'm seriously concerned that we will lose some help that has been coming for years when we have to cut the amount of hours they can work so that we can be economically sustainable,” Dressel said. “I'm the fourth generation to work my family farm, and I have serious concerns about the future of our orchard, and agriculture in general. Regulations and rising costs of doing business in New York are contrary to the prices that the national and global markets will allow.”

Read the full Farm Credit East Report here.

Source: New York Farm Bureau, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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