NY Farm Bureau, farmers concerned about minimum wage hike for farm workers

Raising the minimum wage for farm workers
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 3:34 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The state budget includes a wage hike for farm workers in New York and it’s not going over well with farm owners.

The New York Farm Bureau says this year’s state budget contains some victories, but the bureau and north country farmers have concerns over an increase in the minimum wage for workers.

“It’s really a policy that is going to cripple small farms’ ability to be able to bring on anybody to help assist with general tasks and general labor on the farm,” Peck Homestead Farm owner Jon Peck said.

The wage increase begins in 2024 with farm workers starting at $15 dollars an hour. That will make all New York farm hands the highest paid in the country. In some parts of the state, they already were.

Their wages will continue to increase by 50 cents each year until 2027. The rate will then continue to rise to match inflation.

“Wage growth, that becomes the crux of a lot of the concerns that agriculture and rural peoples have,” Peck said.

“Anytime you make labor more expensive it just drives up more costs for our farms,” Farm Bureau communication director Steve Ammerman said. “It makes it more difficult to compete in the marketplace, and for them to produce and to make ends meet. That ultimately is going to be very difficult for a number of our farms.”

Along with a rising rate for employees, New York state will begin reducing the number of hours needed to receive overtime next year. It’s a combination Ammerman says could put New York farmers at a disadvantage compared to their neighbors.

“The lower overtime threshold will kick in next year as well, which ups overtime rates,” he said. “Our farms are already at a competitive disadvantage when you look at states in the surrounding area that have a lower minimum wage.”

“We’re at a complete disadvantage to other states,” Peck said.

One thing Farm Bureau President David Fischer is excited about is the inclusion of the Refundable Investment Tax Credit in the state budget.

He calls it “a potential boon for agriculture producers, allowing them to expand, upgrade, or diversify their businesses.”