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Will NY Regulate More Farms Out Of Business?

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Senator Tom O'Mara


New York’s farmers and the agricultural industry as a whole have been hard hit over the past year.

Despite many burdens weighing on farm families, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Democrat majorities of the state Legislature piled on a new law last June with serious consequences in the months ahead. The law’s opponents -- count me firmly among them -- warn that it could produce a nightmare of a ripple effect.

Known as the “Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act,” the law took effect on January 1 and, among other provisions, it grants collective bargaining rights, overtime pay, paid family leave and unemployment benefits to farm laborers. Since the dawn of labor laws, farm labor has been treated differently than other employment because, plain and simple, it is different. Farms "have to make hay while the sun is shining." It's seasonal and requires planting, fertilizing, pesticide application, pruning and harvesting, all of which are driven by Mother Nature, not by a nine-to-five, five-day workweek.

Governor Cuomo has already proposed changes to ease cost increases on farms, a move that by itself signals trouble ahead. How hard will the governor push for the changes? Will the Legislature’s progressives ever accept them? These are key questions without answers.

What we do know is that many farmers view the law as a threat. According to one recent report, farm labor costs in New York State increased 40 percent over the past decade. Total farm labor costs are at least 63 percent of net cash farm income in New York, compared to 36 percent nationally.  

One of the law’s most onerous provisions created a three-member Farm Laborers Wage Board that is supposed to hold the first of at least three public hearings by March 1. Following hearings, this wage board is empowered to change the law. I was especially critical of this action to grant such far-reaching authority to an unelected, unaccountable body. 

Yes, the New York Farm Bureau is represented on the board. It is fundamentally important to have farming’s voice directly involved. However, the Farm Bureau’s voice (and vote) can be easily overridden by the board’s other two members -- the state’s largest labor union, the AFL-CIO, and an appointee by the governor’s Labor Department.  

The fear, which I stressed during debate on the Senate floor before voting no, is that this board will move quickly to revise the act in ways that will increase farmworkers’ pay at the great expense of farmers.

Farm Bureau President David Fischer warns that the March public hearing is far too early to be helpful in assessing the law’s impact.

“Keep in mind, the first hearing will happen before the first crops are even in the ground,” he said recently. “It will be incredibly difficult to judge in a significant way how farms and their employees are managing schedules and dealing with the financial burdens just two months into the year.”

The Farm Bureau wants the board to have adequate time, resources and appropriate data to assess the law’s full impact before recommending changes. I am skeptical, to put it mildly.  

It remains imperative for upstate legislators, for whom the farm economy is a foundation of communities we represent, to keep close watch on a wage board now holding so many farmers’ futures in its hands.

We cannot risk the state mandating and regulating more farms out of business – and that is exactly what’s at stake here.

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When do they expect farmers to be able to get paid more for their crops??? The ‘under-valuing’ of food from the farmers end is the real problem. Receiving approximately 19 cents from every Ag dollar spent farmers are ‘taking it on the chin’ in this Country. Along with the MISMANAGEMENT of Waters ways by the Corps of Enginners/Government/BigAg/Pharma (they ALL sleep in the same bed...) and farmers losing their land (who do you think is buying/MANAGING that land that is lost - hint : it’s not your neighbor or community) to these obsurd events. The CORPORATE GOVERNMENT is trying to purchase the entire town of Pacific Junction, Iowa and the surrounding farmland as a ‘flood plain’. Anytime you lose land in this fashion, you lose the WATER RIGHTS as well. The effects of the public remaining DOCILE to these occurrences is working in the favor of the SPECIAL INTEREST GANGS running AMOK in Washington. Our OWN COUNTRY is feeding us to the wolves piece by piece. They’ve figured out away to squeeze blood out of a ‘turnip’ (you & me) and pecking away at our food system will doom us all. I remember when I used to de-tassel corn and weed beans. I didn’t get rich (didn’t plan on it either), but I ate. I also pursued a different form of work when I realized I wanted more than food with my earnings. The bottom line is over-inflation also know as GREED is crushing this Country, not the farmer’s inability to keep pace with their GREED SCHEME!!! Ask yourself...are you willing to pay more for your food??? If not, then you’re a part of the problem, not the solution. You can’t use ‘broken tools’ to fix ‘broken machines’. My finger points to CORPORATE GOVERNMENT!!! Remember CORPORATIONS were given an EXTRA VOTE by being considered an ‘ENTITY’. The person (s) owning these businesses get an extra VOTE(S). Think about that as you go to the poles. A ‘stacked deck’ is hard to beat...

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Well, you have to live in this damned state to fully "appreciate" what His Lowness does. 

I remember when farms were a common site right here in our little town. Now? I don't think there's but a shadow of what used to be. Certainly no longer the dairy operations there once were. 

We live in a rich agricultural state, believe it or not, but this guy, his cronies, and their policies make it near impossible for anyone to make a go of farming. And with this year's new laws, it's only going to get worse. 

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