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NY Farm Bureau says $15 minimum wage would raise costs by $500 million in state

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 November 2015 at 12:00 am

File photo by Tom Rivers – Jim Kirby runs a planter on Zig-Zag Road in Gaines in May during corn planting season.

If New York raises the minimum wage to $15, farmers in the state would see their operating costs increase by $500 million, and that would likely put many farmers out of business, New York Farm Bureau said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to bring the minimum wage from $8.75 to $15 an hour in a phased-in approach.

Farmers are in New York already face higher operating costs than competitors in other states, said Dean Norton, NYFB president.

“No other state in the nation comes close to having a $15 minimum wage,” Norton said in November issue of Grassroots, Farm Bureau’s monthly publication. “In fact, our main farm competitor states, like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida will have minimum wages about 30 percent lower than New York’s.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation did an economic analysis of the $15 minimum wage in New York. A 300-acre vegetable farm in central New York would see its costs rise by $600,000 annually. A large dairy farm in the North Country would pay out about $1 million more a year while a smaller dairy in Schoharie County would pay $200,000 more, Farm Bureau said.

The organization said many farms already are at slim profit margins. Some farms, due to price swings in the dairy cycle, are making little or no money.

“This proposal is extremely disappointing and dangerous to the farm business owners that struggle to run financially viable businesses in upstate and rural New York,” said Jeff Williams, director of public policy for NY Farm Bureau.

Norton said most farmers already pay more than the minimum. The current average wage on a farm in New York is $12.15 an hour, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Upping the minimum wage would lift all farm wages,” Norton said. “A worker who already earns a higher hourly rate based on experience and time on the farm would still expect a higher salary than those who are newly hired.”

A $15 minimum wage would force farmers to pay even more than that to keep skilled and experienced workers, Norton said.

If the governor’s proposal goes through, Norton said more farms will turn to automation to reduce labor costs, and consumers can expect to pay more for produce and food.

“The wage hike will also be a bigger barrier for smaller farms who are interested in hiring new employees to grow their businesses,” Norton said. “This will ultimately be bad news for the rural economy that depends on agriculture as its bread and butter.”