State DOL finalizes phase-in for reducing OT threshold on farms

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 February 2023 at 10:34 am

First phase starts Jan. 1, 2024 with OT cap at 56 hours a week

Photo by Tom Rivers: A farmer works a field by an orchard on Route 31 in Ridgeway in May 2016.

ALBANY — The overtime threshold for farm workers will be 56 hours a week starting Jan. 1, 2024 – down from the current 60 hours a week.

After 56 hours, farm workers will be paid at an overtime rate. It is part of a phased-in plan to bring the OT threshold to 40 hours a week in 2023.

The threshold will be reduced by 4 hours a week every two years until it is at 40 hours.

“These new regulations ensure equity for farm workers, who are the very backbone of our agriculture sector,” New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said on Wednesday when she announced the changes have been finalized. “By implementing a gradual transition, we are giving farmers time to make the appropriate adjustments. These new regulations advance New York State’s continued commitment to workers while protecting our farms.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature enacted new tax credits to assist farm employers to ease the implementation of the lower overtime standard. The DOL said those include:

  • The Investment Tax Credit was increased from 4 percent to 20 percent for farm businesses, providing an encouragement for potential automation of farm production.
  • The Farm Workforce Retention Tax Credit was increased to $1,200 per employee to provide near-term relief to farmers.
  • A refundable tax credit was established for overtime hours paid by farm employers at the level established by the new regulation up to 60 hours.

State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said the change will drive up cost for farmers who are already struggling with soaring operating expenses.

“Our family farmers are already struggling with skyrocketing inflation, high unemployment insurance taxes, and a severe worker shortage,” Ortt said in a  statement on Wednesday. “This is one more burdensome mandate passed on by unelected bureaucrats that will cause more harm. Instead of working to make New York more affordable, One Party Rule continues to impose anti-business policies that drive up costs for our small businesses and family farms.”

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney said the decision from the state will make it more challenging for farms to be successful in New York.

“Kathy Hochul, her Department of Labor, and Democrats in Albany have turned their backs on New York’s family farms,” Tenney said in a statement. “This gravely misguided decision deliberately ignored input from important stakeholders and will worsen the already difficult headwinds for New York’s agriculture sector. No farms, no food isn’t just a slogan; it will become the new reality if Albany Democrats continue to treat New York’s family farms with such disdain. I will continue my fight in Congress to assist our farm businesses and hold Albany Democrats accountable for this disastrous decision.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley issued this statement: “For the past three years, my colleagues and I have advocated for the family farmers of New York who have told us time and again that any changes to the overtime threshold would severely impact their economic security. I’m deeply disappointed that the DOL and Commissioner Reardon have ignored those pleas.

“Agriculture is the largest industry in New York, and its workers are the best in the nation. But for these smaller farms trying to get by, the costs just skyrocketed, and the burden of this mandate will unfortunately cause many farmers to fall by the wayside. With this reality in mind, I can’t help but wonder who the DOL thinks it is helping.”