The area’s representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives expressed displeasure with the New York State Department of Labor’s decision to reduce the threshold for farm worker overtime pay from 60 hours to 40.

Rep. Marc Molinaro (NY-19), a member of the House Agriculture Committee, released a statement, saying, “This is a sad day for agriculture in New York State. Local farmers are already feeling the squeeze with record-high fertilizer prices, skyrocketing fuel costs, and severe workforce shortages. For some farmers, Albany’s new rule will make things even tighter. For others — this is a death blow.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21), said in a prepared statement:

“Albany Democrats have ignored the concerns of farmers across New York State by adopting regulations to lower the overtime threshold, which jeopardizes the future of New York’s agriculture industry and will put thousands of farm laborers out of work.

“This out of touch decision makes New York less competitive and will exacerbate the existing labor shortage our farmers are already facing. Upstate New York and the North Country are home to thousands of dairy farmers, apple growers, and maple producers, who work tirelessly to provide for our communities, but are now forced to bear the burden of another wrong decision made in Albany. While Albany Democrats prove their priorities are not for Upstate, I will always support our farmers, because I understand: No farms, no food.”

Both members of Congress are Republicans, often critical of the administration of Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The state Department of Labor announced approval of the changes on Wednesday.

The department adopted a phased-in, gradual reduction in the overtime pay threshold, beginning Jan. 1, 2024, with the threshold set at 56 hours, according to a media release from the department. The process will continue with the overtime threshold limit reducing by four hours every other year until reaching 40 hours in 2032.

“These new regulations ensure equity for farm workers, who are the very backbone of our agriculture sector,” DOL Commissioner Roberta Reardon said in the release. “By implementing a gradual transition, we are giving farmers time to make the appropriate adjustments. These new regulations advance New York State’s continued commitment to workers while protecting our farms.”

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