Captiol News from The Assembly Minority Conference
The Assembly Minority Conference

‘Future Farmers Of America Week’ An Opportunity To Reevaluate A Dangerous Proposal

Legislative Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

Agriculture is part of the very fabric that constitutes New York. Despite many obstacles, our farming community provides food and sustenance for our families, schoolchildren and the less fortunate year after year with passion and diligence. Starting tomorrow, we celebrate the contributions of our farming community and those who will continue the proud tradition of meeting our nutritional needs during Future Farmers of America Week, which runs through Saturday, Feb. 26.

The unfortunate reality however, is that New York’s farmers and their legacy, are in trouble. Recently, the Farm Laborers Wage Board recommended lowering the overtime threshold for farm workers. New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon and Gov. Kathy Hochul will now evaluate the recommendation and decide how to proceed. To anyone who has ever owned a farm, or understands the challenges facing New York’s farmers, it is clear that if advanced, this new regulation will be a fatal blow to an already-struggling industry.

More than 70 percent of the testimony submitted to the Farm Laborers Wage Board expressed the importance of keeping the threshold where it stands. In addition to planned minimum wage hikes, making such a drastic change is expected to spike labor costs by more than 40 percent, per a recent report from Farm Credit East. This is going to drive up food prices and threaten an already-delicate supply chain.

Last week, our Conference hosted a gathering bringing together agriculture stakeholders from around the state. New York Farm Bureau and family farm owners spoke articulately about how damaging lowering the threshold from 60 hours to 40 hours will be for their future. We have heard for months from the farming community their fears of having to scale back operations, lay off workers who are likely to find work elsewhere, or cease to operate here altogether. Family farms in New York passed down for generations will disappear.

If Gov. Hochul’s administration follows through on these changes, it risks tearing the rich history of New York agriculture at the seams. Farms are going to close, and that land is going to be redeveloped for other purposes. The farming community is not talking about leaving to make threats; it is giving an earnest warning. This is not going to work.

It is within the power of Commissioner Reardon and Gov. Hochul to do something about this. I strongly urge them to listen to New York’s farmers. They know exactly what will happen if these changes come to pass, and it is not good for farmers, consumers or the workers these changes are supposed to help. 

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 19 Canalview Mall, Fulton, NY 13069 and by email at