Agriculture producers and farmers in New York are bracing for a potential decision in the coming weeks by state labor officials that could lower the threshold for overtime pay.
Farmers from around the state traveled to Albany on Wednesday to urge Gov. Kathy Hochul to oppose the move and outline the effect the move would have on their businesses.
"It's going to force a lot of change," said Eric Ooms, a dairy farmer from Columbia County and the vice president of the New York Farm Bureau. "It could mean people growing more corn, it could mean people getting out of the business entirely."
At issue is lowering the threshold for overtime pay from 60 hours a week, a move farmers say is unrealistic for agricultural businesses that do not operate on a 9-to-5 schedule.
Farms have gotten larger in parts of upstate New York over the years, a sign of farmers selling their land and leaving the agriculture sector of the economy. For consumers, farmers like Ooms warn the move would mean a reduction in New York-grown products at markets and grocery stores.
"If you raise their labor rate that much, it's going to lead to less vegetables grown in this state," Ooms said. "We evolve. Everyone evolves over time. But if you want fresh fruit and vegetables and fresh products in New York, this is not the best way to accomplish that."