Farm labor bill threatens livelihoods, farm futures - Olean Times Herald: Editorial - Farm labor bill threatens livelihoods, farm futures: Editorial

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Farm labor bill threatens livelihoods, farm futures

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Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 9:23 am

Farming in New York is under attack once again by people who have never set foot on a farm, but think they know best how a farm should operate.

The New York Assembly, led by New York City lawmakers, passed the unnecessary Farm Workers Fair Labor Practices Act. There is already a long list of state and federal protections that oversee everything from workplace housing to health and safety standards to wages.

Fortunately, Assembly Joseph Giglio knows how farms work and protects local agriculture interests.

This misguided bill also pushes for mandatory overtime on an individual eight-hour workday and collective bargaining. These may work for a factory, but not for a family farm. If farm employees should choose to strike during a critical week of harvest, a year’s livelihood could be lost. It would be nearly impossible to find a replacement crew to milk cows in just the few hours before the next milking — something that cows would need to remain healthy.

The work schedule is dictated by the weather more often than by the farmer. Overtime will force many farmers to limit workers to eight-hour shifts and seek other employees to fill in the gaps. Both local farm help and migrant farm workers who choose to come to this country to work hard for a given season would be shortchanged.

Other farmers may simply choose to grow less labor-intensive row crops, giving up on planting fresh fruits and vegetables. The legacy and landscape of agriculture in New York will undoubtedly change.

In the end, farmers treat their employees well because it is not only the right thing to do, but because farmers depend on their workers for important jobs. If an employee is treated unfairly, they simply find work elsewhere or do not return the following year.

We encourage you to write or call Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Sen. Catharine Young and explain that this bill should not pass. Let them know that farmers and farm employees will be hurt if it does.

Charles Couture, president

Cattaraugus County Farm Bureau

Ernest Ramsey, president

Allegany County Farm Bureau

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