Ortt, Norris to hold news conference with Farm Bureau about push to lower OT threshold in ag

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 September 2022 at 8:43 am

OLCOTT – State Senate Republic Leader Rob Ortt and Assemblyman Mike Norris, R-Lockport, will have a news conference today with the Niagara County Farm Bureau president to share their concerns about the possibility of the overtime threshold in agriculture being lowered from 60 to 40 hours per week.

Ortt said that change would put many farms out of business, make the agricultural industry less competitive with nearby states, and actually result in less pay for farmworkers who would see their hours cut.

The state legislators and Jeannette Miller of the Niagara County Farm Bureau will be in Olcott for the news conference. It is planned to be  shown through Facebook live beginning at 12:30 p.m.

The Farm Laborers Wage Board will meet Sept. 6 and is expected to deliver a report on OT threshold for farmworkers. The board also is expected to make a final recommendations to NYSDOL Commissioner Roberta Reardon on the proposal to reduce the overtime threshold for farm workers from 60 hours to 40 hours a week.

Board members include Brenda McDuffie, former President and CEO of the Buffalo Urban League; David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President; and Denis Hughes, former President of the New York State AFL-CIO.

The board in January 2022 recommended the overtime threshold be reduced to 40 hours, in a phased-in schedule of dropping by four hours every two years – 56 hours on January 1, 2024; 52 hours on January 1, 2026; 48 hours on January 1, 2028; 44 hours on January 1, 2030; and 40 hours on January 1, 2032.

Once the board delivers its report, the DOL commissioner will have 45 days to review it and announce her decision, which will need to published. Any objections to the report and recommendations can be sent to the commissioner within 15 days after such publication, the DOL said.

Should the recommendations within the report be adopted, the Department of Labor will undergo a rule-making process with a 60-day public comment period.

Orleans County Legislature urges elimination of Farm Laborers Wage Board

The Orleans County Legislature last week passed a resolution urging the governor to eliminate the three-person Farm Laborers Wage Board.

“The Wage Board has just one member with an agricultural background, making it ill-equipped to render sound, informed decisions concerning New York State’s critically- important agriculture industry,” county legislators stated in a resolution.

The Legislature faulted the board for ignoring data from a 2021 Cornell University that showed lowering the threshold would economically hurt both farmers and farm workers.

“New York State farmers continue to face a tremendous number of challenges outside of their control including changes in consumer demand leading to price change, obtaining labor, climate change regulation and mandates, land management policies, foreign and regional market competition, NYS regulations, livestock and crop disease,” legislators said. “And farmers are heavily relied on to continue to produce food during shortages throughout the country while keeping in mind, farmers and farm workers remained constant during the pandemic.”