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New York lowers overtime threshold for farm workers

New York lowers overtime threshold for farm workers

The overtime threshold will gradually lower to 40 hours by 2032

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Farm workers in New York will receive overtime pay in fewer hours than previous years.

On Feb. 22, the State Department of Labor announced it adopted the farm labor overtime regulations the Farm Laborers Wage Board recommended in September.

The three-person board voted 2-1 in favor of the changes in September. David Fisher, president of the New York Farm Bureau, cast the opposition vote.

Farm workers in the state currently receive overtime pay after 60 hours of work. These new regulations mean that, as of Jan. 1, 2024, workers will get overtime pay after 56 hours.

And that threshold will continue to reduce by four hours every other year until 2032.

Beginning that year, farm workers will receive overtime pay after 40 hours.

This gradual reduction ensures New York’s ag sector has enough time to make necessary changes.

“These new regulations ensure equity for farm workers, who are the very backbone of our agriculture sector,” Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said in a statement. “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.”

To help farmers with this transition, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced new initiatives in her State of the State Address.

These include:

  • Increasing the Investment Tax Credit from 4 to 20 percent for farm businesses.
  • Increasing the Farm Workforce Retention Tax Credit to $1,200 per employee, and
  • Establishing a refundable overtime tax credit for overtime hours paid by farm employers.

But farmers are concerned about how these new overtime rules will affect business.

The 20-hour reduction over the next nine years could put New York ag at a disadvantage, said Tony Emmi, owner of Emmi’s Farm in Baldwinsville.

“It’s devastating to tell you the truth,” he told WSYR. “We can’t compete with the states around us, other countries. We have such a high cost of production, and this adds to it.”

This reduction could also lead to difficulties retaining farm workers.

If employees want to work more hours, they may seek employment elsewhere, said Stever Ammerman, spokesperson for the New York Farm Bureau.

“Many in particular who work through the H-2A Guest Worker Visa Program– they are looking for more hours. If they can get those hours in other states and to them that could mean more income for themselves and their families, they are gonna make that choice,” he told NEWS10.

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