For six generations, Bill Peck's family has been in farming — and he wants to keep that tradition alive.
"My only obligation in life is for this farm to succeed so the next generation can choose," Peck said.
Peck's dairy farm in Saratoga County is like many farms across New York — trying to weather the financial headwinds of the agriculture industry. Farms in many parts of New York are struggling and many producers have had to sell their land. That's led to consolidation of some farms, or in many cases, simply an end to farming in that area.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created added financial pressures for many farmers, ranging from supply chain problems and to a worker shortage that has been seen across the economy in recent months.
Now, as New York officials consider lowering the overtime threshold for farm workers, Peck says it's a cost some farms may not be able to bear.
"We need to remember that agriculture is different than other industries because of the labor intensiveness, because of the care that's needed," he said.
A state wage board is expected to convene in the coming weeks to consider lowering the overtime threshold from 60 hours to 40. Advocates contend the move could aid laborers, many of whom are immigrants. But Peck estimates this could add thousands of dollars in monthly costs for a business with a thin profit margin.
"Any time more regulations, more costs are laid down at the feet of the agriculture industry, it makes it that must harder for us to survive," Peck said.
Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin acknowledged Wednesday the concerns that have been raised by the industry.
"We have to make sure we are being thoughtful around this issue and the governor is very focused on this as am I," Benjamin said. "You have to deal with the issue of the businesses and the workers. We're going to do the right thing, but it's not a simple solution."
Increasing overtime costs could also have an affect on what New Yorkers buy at the farmers market or the grocery store — ultimately impacting consumers.
"As we put more businesses out and we have to rely on the Midwest for our food products, that means less fresh, qualities not as good," Peck said.