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NYS adopts new farm labor overtime regulations, local elected-officials react

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O’Mara: “It will change the face of New York State agriculture as we have known it for generations”

A gradual shift will start overtime pay at 40 hours per week by 2032

The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) today announced the adoption of the final farm labor overtime regulations, codifying Commissioner Reardon’s order that accepted the Farm Laborers Wage Board’s report and recommendations in September. The phased-in, gradual reduction in the overtime pay threshold will begin on January 1, 2024, with the threshold set at 56 hours. The process will continue with the overtime threshold limit reducing by 4 hours every other year until reaching 40 hours in 2032.

“These new regulations ensure equity for farm workers, who are the very backbone of our agriculture sector,” said New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “By implementing a gradual transition, we are giving farmers time to make the appropriate adjustments. These new regulations advance New York State’s continued commitment to workers while protecting our farms.”

Beginning in 2020, the Farm Laborers Wage Board held public hearings to gather testimony from farm owners, workers, advocacy groups, and academic researchers. Recordings of these hearings and additional materials are available on the NYSDOL’s webpage.

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In her State of the State Address, Governor Hochul announced a series of new initiatives designed to bolster demand for New York State foods, increase the purchasing of local farm products, and encourage investments to modernize New York’s farms. The Governor and the New York State Legislature also recently enacted new tax credits to assist farm employers to ease the implementation of the lower overtime standard. 

  • The Investment Tax Credit was increased from 4 percent to 20 percent for farm businesses, providing an encouragement for potential automation of farm production.
  • The Farm Workforce Retention Tax Credit was increased to $1,200 per employee to provide near-term relief to farmers.
  • A refundable tax credit was established for overtime hours paid by farm employers at the level established by the new regulation up to 60 hours.

For more information about the new regulations, visit the Farm Laborers Wage Board webpage.

State Senator Tom O’Mara reacts:

State Senator Tom O’Mara today sharply criticized state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon’s decision to finalize controversial regulations lowering the overtime threshold for farm workers in New York State from 60 to 40 hours.  

Reardon announced her final action to codify the new regulations earlier today. The 40-hour overtime threshold will be phased in beginning in 2024.  

A three-member Farm Wage Board, by a vote of 2-1, handed down its final recommendation to Reardon to lower the threshold last September. Board member David Fisher, President of the New York Farm Bureau, voted against it.  

O’Mara has been a strong opponent of the Farm Wage Board since voting against the legislation creating it in 2019, when it was enacted by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Democrat-led majorities in the Senate and Assembly.  

O’Mara said, “Governor Hochul and her Cuomo-appointed labor commissioner had the chance to choose the future of farming over the so-called ‘progressive’ ideology that is driving this state into the ground. They have rejected thousands of farmers, farm workers, farm advocates, agricultural representatives, community leaders, and legislators, including me, who have spoken in near-unanimous opposition to this move. They have rejected the industry’s top advocates, including the New York Farm Bureau, the Northeast Dairy Producers Association, Grow NY Farms, and numerous others. They have decided to undermine an industry and a way of life that has defined the regions we represent. It will change the face of New York State agriculture as we have known it for generations. It will risk the future of high quality, local food production. It will spark the loss of more family farms and the livelihoods these farms support across the industry and throughout hundreds of local economies. At the worst possible time, Governor Hochul is mandating an even more uncertain future for family farmers, farm workers, farm communities, and New York’s agricultural industry overall. Add it to the long and growing list of terrible, politically motivated decisions by this governor.”  

State Senator George Borrello reacts

“While not a surprise, the Commissioner of Labor’s final approval of the recommendation to lower the farm worker overtime threshold to 40 hours per week ends any hope that facts and common sense might somehow prevail on this issue.

We fought long and hard against this decision for more than two years. However, it became apparent during the process that the ‘decision’ had been made before a single hearing was held.

Our farmers are among the growing list of casualties of the politically driven agenda that governs every consequential action here in New York State. The costs of this decision will go beyond the balance sheet. Family legacies, rural economies and the strength of our food supply chain will be impacted by this historically bad decision in the years ahead.”

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