New York farmers concerned about potential change in overtime rules

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WRVO – Local farmers are anxiously awaiting a decision about whether the overtime threshold for farm workers will be changed.

Danielle Volles, who owns Volles Dairy Farm in Marietta, said she knows firsthand that farms do not operate on regular schedules.

“I might work from 6 o’clock in the morning until 9 o’clock at night,” Volles said. “Some days it might be from 6 o’clock in the morning to 4. It just depends on what the needs are for that day.”

That’s why Volles and many other local farmers are worried about a recommendation by a New York State Farm Laborer’s Wage Board that would change the overtime threshold from a 60 hour work week to a 40 hour work week.

Advocates for the change said farm workers should have the same overtime standard as other workers, and they point to tax credits in the state budget that are meant to subsidize the additional cost.

But Volles, who is also president of the Onondaga County Farm Bureau, said in the wake of the pandemic, farms are already struggling. The costs of major needs like fertilizer are going up, and she said it has become crucial for farms to be able to hold onto the workers they have.

“Finding any type of labor is extremely difficult. I can say versus 15 years ago, I might have had 100 people leaving messages on an answering machine,” said Volles. “Nowadays, I don’t get any.”

If approved, the threshold would decrease gradually, hitting 40 hours in 2032.