Farm Laborers Wage Board Votes to Lower Farmworker Overtime Threshold to 40 Hours

Date: January 31, 2022

On January 28th, New York State’s Farm Laborers Wage Board voted to lower the overtime threshold for farm workers from 60 hours to 40 hours. The wage board’s recommendation reduces the overtime threshold by four hours every two years beginning on Jan. 1, 2024. The wage board voted on the resolution after holding several public hearings on the issue, where witnesses delivered hours of testimony overwhelmingly opposed to any changes in the overtime threshold.

NFIB testified in front of the Farm Laborers Wage Board earlier this month expressing our strong opposition to lowering the farmworker overtime threshold from 60 hours to 40 hours. Read NFIB’s full testimony:

 

January 18, 2022

Comment on behalf of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) to the Farm Labor Wage Board Concerning the Farmworker Overtime Threshold

Testimony delivered by Ashley Ranslow, New York State Director, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

On behalf of NFIB, representing nearly 11,000 small, independent businesses including hundreds of businesses in the agriculture industry, across New York State, we are writing to express our serious concerns as the Farm Labor Wage Board considers lowering the farmworker overtime threshold.

In 2019, NFIB opposed The Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, in part, because it would add new and uncertain cost burdens to our agriculture sector which is a critical component of our entire state’s economy, particularly across Upstate and on Long Island.

Family farms like those NFIB represents are not only important to our economy but are also the lifeblood of our communities. They need to be protected and supported now more than ever. According to the New York State Comptroller’s office, there are more than 33,000 farms in New York that generate over $5.7 billion in gross income. In New York State, 96 percent of farms are family-owned – truly small, independent businesses creating jobs and fueling our state’s economy.

Agricultural businesses, like all businesses across New York State, are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses are still contending with a host of issues, including increased labor costs, labor shortages, inflation, unpredictable consumer demand, ever-changing business requirements, and higher UI taxes, all while trying to recover from the last 18-months of a tumultuous economy. According to a recent survey by NFIB, 63 percent of small businesses have not seen their sales volume return to pre-COVID levels and 66 percent anticipate that their local community will not return to pre-crisis level of economic activity until sometime in the second half of 2022 or later.[1] Additionally, the New York State Comptroller released a report finding that four out of five small businesses continue to suffer from a negative overall impact from COVID-19.[2] These are sobering numbers for the state’s economy, local communities, Main Streets, and our family farms, which bring life and vibrancy to our towns and cities.

The Omicron variant and surging cases are exacerbating the extraordinary challenges that are continuing to inundate family farms and small businesses. Small businesses have seen dramatic labor shortages, unpredictable supply chain disruptions, and unrelenting inflation, which continues to raise costs for consumers, small business owners, and family farms. Nearly 70 percent of small businesses are experiencing a labor shortage, which is impacting production and sales, and 83 percent of small businesses have reported increasing wages to attract applicants to new positions. Forty-seven percent of small business owners are reporting that supply chain disruptions are having a significant impact on their business and 64 percent have already increased their average selling prices due to supply chain disruptions and increased labor costs.[3] These are the facts. The costs of goods and services continue to increase at rates this country has not seen in over 40 years.

Family farms cannot afford to absorb any new cost increases, especially as the State prepares for economic recovery. New York State leaders should be exploring every way possible to avoid driving up labor costs for family farms and increasing the cost of staple food and produce items. New York State absolutely should not consider lowering the 60-hour overtime pay threshold, especially with the unprecedented labor shortage, high unemployment rate, and rising inflation.

Even before the enactment of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, our state’s agriculture industry has been facing significant challenges. According to recent USDA Census Data, New York has lost approximately 2,100 farms since 2012, a six percent loss which is triple the national average. The New York State Comptroller’s office also reported that farm acreage has decreased by four percent from 10 years earlier[4].

Farms in New York already confront a unique set of challenges due to seasonality, perishability, and low prices. They also compete in a global marketplace against agricultural operations in states and countries with lower labor costs and fewer regulatory burdens.

For these reasons, NFIB strongly recommends that the Farm Labor Wage Board make no changes to the statute’s 60-hour threshold for overtime pay. Lowering the overtime pay threshold would undoubtedly inject additional uncertainty and new costs onto a struggling economy, distressed small businesses, and overextended working families.

On behalf of NFIB and its membership, thank you for the opportunity to testify and for your time and attention.

 

[1] “Covid-19 Small Business Survey (21).” NFIB Research Center, January 2021. https://assets.nfib.com/nfibcom/Covid-19-Survey-21.pdf.  

[2] Office of the New York State Comptroller, New York’s Economy and Finances in the COVID-19 Era

March 18, 2021, Edition, https://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/impact-covid-19-march-18-2021.

[3] “Covid-19 Small Business Survey (21).” NFIB Research Center, January 2021. https://assets.nfib.com/nfibcom/Covid-19-Survey-21.pdf.   

[4] Office of the New York State Comptroller, “A Profile of Agriculture in New York State.” August 2019, https://www.osc.state.ny.us/files/reports/special-topics/pdf/agriculture-report-2019.pdf.

Related Content: Small Business News | New York

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