A bill expanding labor rights for farmworkers was approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday, but the new law is not sitting well with the state's struggling agriculture industry.
Flanked by daughters and ex-wife Kerry Kennedy, Governor Cuomo on Wednesday signed into a law a bill that would provide new labor rights for farm workers, allowing them to collectively bargain and receive overtime pay.
Cuomo praised the work of his former wife and mother of his three daughters. Kennedy, over the last decade, has pushed for the bill and has been a prominent advocate for agriculture workers.
"One hundred thousand farmworkers will have better lives. Their families will have better lives," Cuomo said.
But for the state's struggling farm industry, the bill represents a setback. New York Farm Bureau spokesman Steve Amerman says they tried to negotiate a better deal.
"The bill was an improvement of where it started at the beginning of session, but there still four major flaws that we thought were problematic with this bill and will create serious problems for our farms in this state," Amerman said.
Amerman says the overtime provisions, a narrow definition of family farms, and the creation of a wage board are problems, as well as the details of collective bargaining.
"It's discouraging, because agriculture is critically important to rural New York, it's critically important to Long Island, and we need to find some kind of balance moving forward and further investment for our farms and farm families, or else they are going to keep disappearing in New York state," Amerman said.
An agriculture census this year found New York, over the last five years, has lost more than 2,000 farms.