Friend: NY Continues To Shamefully Stack Powerful Union Interest Against Small Family Farms

Assemblyman Christopher S. Friend (R,C,I-Big Flats) is calling out the state’s blatant effort to impose powerful union interests over what would work best for family farmers and their workers as a whole. The so-called Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act created a Farm Laborers Wage Board with two-to-one labor interests over farmer representation, one of its goals being to make recommendations to lower the overtime threshold. When the act was signed into law, the start of overtime for farm workers was set at 60 hours.

“The farm workers law stacked the interests of powerful unions heavily against our family farmers and rural communities,” said Friend. “The fact that a wage board has two-to-one labor interests versus farmers will make a sweeping impact on the business operations of small family farms is just ridiculous. Farming communities haven’t even adjusted to the new overtime rule as is, and they haven’t even gone through a planting, growing or harvesting season to understand its full impact. New York’s small farms have been struggling throughout the state, this foolish law will only make matters worse.”

Grow NY Farms released a memorandum outlining their concerns over the framework of the law which was signed by the NY Farm Bureau, the NYS Vegetable Growers Association, the Northeast Dairy Producers Association, the NY Apple Association, the NYS Horticulture Society, Agricultural Affiliates, the Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance and the NY Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. Among their concerns:

  • Immediate convening of the mandated hearings on overtime provisions only two months after the law’s enactment. Five hearings are being held from February 28 to April 3. Farmers haven’t even had the opportunity to adjust to the new 60-hour threshold and other impacts of the law to be able to paint a clear picture of how this law is affecting their farms.
  • Too much authority being placed into the Commissioner of the Department of Labor (DOL). The Commissioner of DOL has sole authority to implement wage board findings without legislative oversight or input.
  • Mandatory overtime, even if employee wishes to work on agreed upon day off. This means even if an employee has not hit the 60-hour threshold in their work week, if they elect to work on their scheduled day off, a farm must pay overtime pay. This also limits flexibility needed in farm work which is heavily dependent on weather conditions and the ripening of crops.
  • Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets should be a member of the Farm Labor Wage Board. Farmers must have a larger voice in these recommendations. Currently, the board has two labor representatives to one farm representative.

Friend sponsors legislation which would increase the number of individuals on the Farm Labor Wage Board from three to five (A.8916-A). One representative would be the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the other would be a representative from the business community to address the concern of underrepresentation of the wage board.

According to the New York Farm Bureau, nearly all of New York’s farms are family-owned operations. Farms, in addition to adhering to New York labor laws, have long provided competitive wages and provide housing, transportation and many other benefits. A 2019 Farm Credit East report noted that mandatory overtime would increase labor costs on New York farms by roughly $300 million, negatively impacting net farm income by about 25 percent. Overall, net farm income has already been on the decline by about 50 percent from just a few years ago and, unlike manufacturers, farmers cannot set their prices to accommodate increases to labor costs.

Friend encourages farmers to attend these hearings or to submit testimony to ensure their voices are heard. A hearing will be held in Monday, March 23 at 11:00 a.m. at Binghamton University, Symposium Hall, Center of Excellence Building Innovative Technology Complex, 45 Murray Hill Road, Vestal, NY 13850. You are encouraged to pre-register: Testimony may be emailed to