A decade-long plan to lower the overtime threshold for farm workers from 60 hours a week to 40 hours could have a detrimental impact on agriculture in upstate New York, Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado warned this week in a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Delgado, who is seeking re-election this fall in a newly redrawn district, is the first Democratic House member from New York to oppose the overtime change for farms.
"These farms have faced a difficult farm economy in recent years, and severe market disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic," Delgado wrote in the letter to Hochul. "Lowering the overtime threshold from 60 to 40 hours adds another hardship for our farmers, and may cause many to close their doors."
A wage board at the state Department of Labor advanced the overtime change earlier this year over the objection of agriculture industry organizations. Supporters of the change have argued the move is necessary in order to update how workers on farms are compensated and provide fairer treatment to a largely migrant class of laborers.
But farmers have said the change does not reflect the realities of working on a farm, where labor is rarely contained in an eight-hour day.
Delgado in the letter reflected back that concern, writing that change "is not mindful of the dynamics of farming."
The lower overtime threshold is yet to be fully adopted, and Delgado urged Hochul to take a different track.
"Rather than move forward with the wage board’s decision, I urge you to work with farmers to find a better solution," he wrote. "Including farmer input will ensure potential changes are viable for farmers."
Delgado is seeking re-election in what had been a largely rural Hudson Valley district. The district has been redrawn and is set to include more cities like Binghamton and Utica. He is expected to face Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.