Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

June 12, 2013

LETTER: State farm bill would be harmful

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Farming in New York is under attack once again by people who have never set foot on a farm, but think they know best how a farm should operate. And frankly, if they succeed, I worry about the future of farming. The legacy and landscape of agriculture in New York will undoubtedly change.

 The New York Assembly, led by New York City lawmakers, passed the Farm Workers Fair Labor Practices Act under the guise that there are no protections in place to safeguard the hardworking men and women who work on our farms.

This assumption could not be more wrong.

There is a long list of state and federal protections that over see everything from workplace housing to health and safety standards to wages.

 The Farm Labor Bill is also pushing for mandatory overtime on an individual eight-hour work day and collective bargaining.

While these may work in a structured factory setting, they are not designed for a family farm. If employees should choose to strike during a critical week of harvest, a year’s livelihood could be lost. Our dairy cows in need of milking would also be in put in harm’s way.

Also, Mother Nature dictates the schedule during planting and harvest seasons, not the farmer.

A rainy day may keep us out of the field and force us to play catch up the next day. Overtime would force many farmers to limit workers to eight-hour shifts and seek other employees to fill in the gap.

The migrant farm workers who choose to come to this country to work hard for a given-season would be shortchanged.

Other farmers may simply choose to grow less labor intensive row crops, giving up on the fresh fruits and vegetables New York is known for.

 In the end, farmers treat their employees well because it is not only the right thing to do, but because the farmers also depend on their workers for important jobs.

If an employee was treated unfairly, they would simply find employment elsewhere.

Many of our farm employees work for the same farms year-after-year.

I encourage you to write or call Governor Cuomo and your state senator and explain that if this bill should pass, farmers and farm employees will be hurt.

Gary Kludt, President Orleans County Farm Bureau