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Legislative Memo

Frank Kerbein
Director, Center for Human Resources
T 518.455.7180
www.bcnys.org

BILL:

S.2721 (Alcantara) / A.4189 (Nolan)

Support

SUBJECT:

Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act

 

DATE:

April 17, 2018

 

This legislation would extend collective bargaining, overtime and other provisions of the state’s labor, workers’ compensation and public health laws to the agricultural sector.

This bill would dramatically increase the cost of farming in New York State at a time of low commodity prices for many of our farming families. This bill would have a tremendous impact on New York’s smaller farmers, while also putting tremendous pressure on the larger family farms that provide the bulk of the fresh New York-grown products. 

These additional protections are not needed.  Farmers are already rigorously regulated and inspected employers. Protections are already in place at the federal level for agricultural workers.  Both the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Protection Act establish employment standards in relation to wages, housing, transportation, safety and health, disclosure and recordkeeping requirements.

In addition, statistics from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (a branch of the federal USDA) demonstrate that farm workers in New York made an average of $12.38 an hour in 2016. There is a reason that many immigrants travel great distances to work on our farms on a seasonal basis—because New York State farmers provide good working conditions and wages.

The seasonality of the labor force, the perishability of farm products, and the low prices farmers receive for their crops make agriculture one of the toughest, yet most personally rewarding, industries in the state.  Adding an additional, unnecessary level of regulation will put the future of these farms at risk and fail to take into account the real challenges farmers face in running a farm business and competing in a global economy.

For these reasons, The Business Council opposes this legislation and respectfully urges that it not be enacted.