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Several lawmakers who are members of New York’s Agriculture Committee signed a letter addressed to the Assembly Majority leadership, calling for a series of public hearings to bring up concerns over the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act.

As reported, this measure, sponsored by two New York City Lawmakers, would overhaul operations on small, family farms by forcing unreasonable and difficult workforce mandates. Our State Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R,C,I-Black River) is a member of the committee and was one of several lawmakers who signed the letter, protesting this bill.

“New York’s agriculture industry is so important to the economic well-being of the state. It is responsible for thousands of jobs, much-needed foods and is a cornerstone of the culture of New York,” Blankenbush said. “Taking such drastic steps, at this time, is dangerous. It threatens to disrupt an already delicate ecosystem, and I wholeheartedly hope this bill is put aside until a better plan can be put in place.”

According to lawmakers who signed the letter, several constituents have expressed serious concerns about the bill, which would only create more burden on New York’s dairy farmers, who are already struggling just to make ends meet, lawmakers say.

In regards to this proposed measure, the most frequent worries among local farmers include:

-Farm schedules are heavily dictated by weather and natural phenomena; collective bargaining, mandatory rest and overtime would be incredibly difficult to manage in an industry so subject to unpredictability.

-Commodity prices, which are already low, are set largely by demand. Imposing new costs now could be catastrophic to farms grappling for income.

-A farm workers’ strike puts a given season’s crop and the lives of livestock in jeopardy. These losses would be crippling to small businesses that likely will not be able to overcome them.

-Under this proposal, farms will likely need to move toward lower-labor crops or increase automation, killing both jobs and crop diversity in New York State.

“The costs to farms brought on by this bill are staggering, and will ultimately be passed down to consumers. New York’s farms have already been suppressed by the weight of one of the most restrictive tax and regulatory burdens in the nation. Passing this bill is akin to breaking the camel’s back with an anvil,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb. “We are calling for immediate hearings on the impact of this bill, so as to give the public, namely the many farmers who will be subject to this legislation, a chance to explain to the New York City-based legislators pushing this bill exactly what will happen if it passes.”

According to information from the Farm Bureau, agriculture is approximately a $5 billion per year industry, employing nearly 198,000 people on more than 35,000 farms in the state.

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