Farmworker bill harms local farms

It was with great frustration that I read The News editorial expressing support for the farm labor bill that could decimate New York agriculture as we know it.

The bill would mandate many things, including overtime beyond eight hours and collective bargaining. We are farms, not factories, and are entirely weather dependent.

With the rain we have been having, my workers have been idle. Some will be lucky to get in 30 hours this week. However, when it dries out, we will back in the fields making up for lost time.

Everyone who chooses to work on a farm understands this. If you throw in the right to strike, that could kill my business. Our vegetables are living things. When they are ready to be picked, they are in their prime. One day late, they’re over the hill. A year’s worth of work would be wasted with no workers to pick them.

Prices we pay for seed, fertilizer, taxes, insurance, fuel and labor have been rising. The prices I get for my produce have not, having actually declined over the last two years. Should this bill pass, I would seriously consider growing soybeans and potatoes that can be harvested mechanically, and not local vegetables.

We take care of our employees, providing clean housing, bonuses and medical help. Three seasonal employees have spent 30 years with us. If they were treated as the activists would lead you to believe, they would not stick around year after year.

I’m especially upset with Sen. Tim Kennedy, who just last year told me and my fellow farmers he was in our corner. With his flip flop, I feel betrayed. I guess supporting outsider Kerry Kennedy is more important than the people who provide fresh food in his community.

Mark Henry