A wage board at the state Department of Labor on Friday endorsed a proposal to lower the overtime threshold for agriculture businesses from 60 hours to 40 hours a week, a move praised by labor advocates, but sharply opposed by organizations that represent farmers. 

Lowering the overtime threshold could benefit the workers on farms, many of them migrants, with higher pay. But the New York Farm Bureau and other agriculture-aligned business groups have argued the move will hurt smaller producers, lead to higher food prices and out-of-state products while also reducing the number of people they can employ. 

"Changing the overtime threshold to 40 hours a week for farmworkers in New York means that these workers will be limited to 40 hours, due to simple farm economics," said Grow NY Farms, a coalition of organizations opposed to the change. "This is not a win for farmworkers that self-proclaimed worker advocates will claim."

The change won't begin to take effect until 2024 and would be phased in over eight years, and some officials, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, are discussing ways of offsetting the cost of the overtime move through tax credits. 

The lower threshold was endorsed by labor organizations, who praised the effort as part of a generation-long goal.  

"The Farm Laborers Wage Board made the right decision recommending a phased-in overtime plan that will create equity and equality for farmworkers," said Mario Cilento, the president of the New York State AFL-CIO. "The New York State AFL-CIO has fought alongside farmworkers for more than 20 years to reach this goal. The phased-in overtime threshold will get these hard-working men and women to the same 40-hour standard for overtime as other workers."