NYS lowers farmworker overtime pay threshold

NYS lowers farmworker overtime pay threshold

On Feb. 22, new state rules decreased the hours needed for farmworkers to qualify for overtime pay.
Published: February 27, 2023
2023 New York Farm Show at the New York State Fairgrounds on Feb. 24, 2023
New York Farm Show visitors check out the tractors on display at the New York State Fairgrounds on Friday.

As New York farmers gear up for this year’s growing season, some worry about a new state rule that changes the overtime pay requirements for farmworkers.

The Department of Labor finalized a rule on Feb. 22 that gives farmworkers overtime payment for working fewer hours than they previously had to work in order to qualify and potentially drives up expenses for farm owners.

Julie August, a Haun Welding Supply employee who attended the recent New York Farm Show in Geddes, said smaller farm operations that rely on family members for staffing won’t even be able to consider the help if there are additional costs.

“Right now it’s just family that runs it [the farm], and they got the cousins and the uncles and that’s it,” August said. “You know, they can’t hire out help.”

Starting January 1, 2024, employees will only have to work 56 hours per week as opposed to 60 hours to receive overtime pay. The lowering of the overtime pay threshold will decrease by four hours every two years, resulting in a 40 hours per week threshold by 2032, according to the state Farm Laborers Wage Board.

The Department of Labor made the decision to phase in the eventual 40-hour threshold over the next decade in order to allow the agricultural industry time to adapt to the change. State officials such as Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon hope these changes will improve conditions for state farmworkers, according to The Associated Press.

The new overtime threshold has mixed reviews. Some farm owners are not in favor of the rule, concerned that the new threshold will heighten the current financial strain on local farms due to high labor costs and inflation.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s state budget plan proposes a small business tax relief, raising the deduction from five to 15 percent of net farm income.

Amid the recent pay update, farm owners and several corporate companies gathered to sell farm products at the New York Farm Show from Feb. 23-25. The large event has taken place for over 30 years and offers an opportunity for members of the agricultural industry to come together and enjoy all things farm related.

At the show, more than 400 exhibitors showcased a vast array of farming equipment, tractors and other industry products for farmers to browse at a more affordable price than they would in-store.

“This is where they can come buy their stuff at show pricing rather than retail price,” August said.