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State doesn’t need another farm law

Farming in New York is under attack once again by people who have never set foot on a farm, but think they know best how a farm should operate.

The Assembly, led by New York City lawmakers, passed the unnecessary Farm Workers Fair Labor Practices Act. There is already a long list of state and federal protections that oversee everything from workplace housing to health and safety standards to wages. Fortunately most of our Assembly members know how farms work and voted against the bill with us.

The misguided bill also pushes for mandatory overtime on an individual eight-hour work day and collective bargaining. These may work for a factory, but not for a family farm. If farm employees should choose to strike during a critical week of harvest, a year’s livelihood could be lost. It would be nearly impossible to find a replacement crew to milk cows in just the few hours before the next milking – something that cows would need to remain healthy.

The work schedule is dictated by the weather more often than by the farmer. Overtime will force many farms to limit workers to eight-hour shifts and seek other employees to fill in the gap. Both local farm help and migrant farm workers who choose to come to this country to work hard for a given season would be shortchanged. Other farms may simply choose to grow less labor-intensive row crops, giving up on planting fresh fruits and vegetables. The legacy and landscape of agriculture in New York will undoubtedly change.

In the end, farmers treat their employees well because it is not only the right thing to do, but because the farmers depend on their workers for important jobs. If employees were treated unfairly, they would simply find work elsewhere or not return the following year.

Anthony Andolina

President

Erie County Farm Bureau