On Thursday evening, Republican New York State Sen. Rob Ortt hosted an agriculture roundtable in Batavia for colleagues, industry experts and residents from across Western New York. As ranker of the New York State Senate Committee on Agriculture, Ortt has spent the past few weeks visiting and touring farms while speaking with farmers from across Western New York about newly proposed labor laws. He said he wanted to bring together as many individuals from the agriculture community as possible.
“The purpose of this roundtable was to gain additional insight and inform our local residents and the media on how impactful pending labor legislation could be to our small family farms,” Ortt said. “We wanted to draw on these farm owners’ and farmworkers’ expertise, and we wanted to offer them an opportunity to voice their concerns and speak with their elected representatives about what can be done to stop newly proposed labor laws.
“The sponsor of this new labor legislation and the chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture have refused to hold any hearings in Western New York, so we have taken it upon ourselves to give these farm owners, farm workers, farm bureaus and elected officials an opportunity to voice their opinions.”
Recently introduced labor legislation by Sen. Jessica Ramos of Queens would require farm owners to pay overtime to seasonal workers who surpass a daily hour limit, require mandatory days off, and allow workers to strike.
A study by Farm Credit East indicated this legislation would increase labor costs by an estimated 17 percent and decrease net farm income by approximately 23 percent. In total, Ortt’s camp said the legislation is expected to cost the farming community a total of $299 million.
“With so many small family farms struggling to survive, this legislation would put an end to local farming in New York as we know it,” Ortt said. “The farm closure rate in New York is currently three times the national average, and legislation like that proposed by Sen. Ramos would increase this farm closure number exponentially. It would also drive away our best workers who seek to work as many hours as possible. If capped at 40 hours per week, seasonal employees will look to other states for more work.”
Senate Bill 2837 currently resides in the Senate Labor Committee.