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New York farmers concerned about potential change in overtime rules

Dairy farms that capture methane from their cows' manure can earn valuable pollution-cutting credits through California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard.
In this Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, photo cows are seen at the New Hope Dairy in Galt, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in September that for the first time regulates heat-trapping gases from livestock operations and landfills. New Hope Dairy, which has about 1,500 cows, installed a $4 million methane digester in 2013, thanks to a state grant and a partnership with the local utility, which operates the system to generate renewable power for the grid. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

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 recommendationby 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.