Revisiting The Farm Labor Overtime Threshold

Column by Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R,C,I-Black River)

The Farm Laborer Wage Board is set to make a final recommendation on the overtime threshold for farm workers on Sept. 6. I want to begin by thanking all the North Country and Mohawk Valley residents who have called into the wage board, the governor and Labor Commissioner’s Office to advocate against a decrease in the overtime threshold from 60 hours to 40 hours. We still have a few weeks to make our voices heard before the final recommendation. There is no doubt that decreasing the threshold would be another nail in the coffin for New York family farms.

Just recently, Gov. Hochul paid a visit to St. Lawrence County touting her plan that the state would pay back farmers for the difference if the threshold decrease is implemented. I have spoken with a few farmers on that proposal and there are far more questions than answers. How would farmers apply for this state money? How quickly would this money be distributed? How would farmers be able to wait on this administration sending out checks when they must pay their workers up front? While the governor’s plan is a nice sound bite, I don’t find it to be practical. She can avoid this headache simply by rejecting any recommendation that would decrease the overtime threshold.

In past columns, I have talked about this very issue, but the facts are important and should be restated before any unelected wage board makes such a consequential decision. Over 98% of farms in New York are considered ‘family-farms.’ These family-run operations do not adhere to a 9-5 workday. Farming is a 24/7 commitment. A Farm Credit East study bared out that decreasing the threshold from 60 to 40 hours would add an additional $129 million in annual costs to farmers, increasing farm labor costs by 42%, while decreasing net farm income by 20%. A Cornell University study showed that a staggering 70% of guest workers would seek opportunities in other more business-friendly states. The governor fails to realize that the labor market will react poorly to an overtime decrease, and farmers will have to slash their workers hours because they cannot afford the increased overtime.

What more do our farmers have to prove? They have battled over burdensome regulations and high taxation from this one-party-rule government for years. They worked day and night through a pandemic, and they have been shouldered with record inflation and supply chain issues. It is absurd that Gov. Hochul can’t read the room; rather, she wants to take advice from unelected bureaucrats on the Wage Board.

The fate of the family farm in New York state is in Gov. Hochul’s hands. By decreasing the threshold, she, and she alone, will be responsible for the destruction of New York’s agriculture industry. No farms, no food.

I also encourage residents to reach out to the governor’s office at 518-474-8390 and Labor Commissioner Reardon’s office at 518-457-9000. As always, please feel free to reach out to my office at 315-493-3909 or email me at