by Courtney Llewellyn

Last year was a difficult year for farmers. That’s how David Fisher, president of New York Farm Bureau, kicked off the conference call on Jan. 29 to discuss their top priorities for the 2020 legislative session. That statement was essentially the bad news before the good news, however.

The good news comes in the fact that NYFB has ambitious goals for this year focusing on mitigating the impact of the recently enacted Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, investments in agricultural funding and support to address climate change on farms.

The labor act is front and center for most farmers right now, with its limiting definitions of family and laborers and its 60-hour work week before overtime pay kicks in. Fisher said one legislative goal is helping farmers obtain financial offsets to balance out costs associated with adhering to the ruling.

NYFB is also asking the labor act’s Wage Board, made up of a representatives from Farm Bureau, the Department of Labor and the AFL-CIO, to host hearings in three ag-centric parts of the state by March 1 regarding the possibility of changing that 60-hour work week to a 40-hour week before overtime pay begins.

“Keep in mind, all these hearings will be taking place before most farmers have their first crops in the ground,” Fisher said. He noted he hasn’t heard a lot a of feedback about the new labor ruling yet because “it’s basically just dairy farmers operating daily now.”

Jeff Williams, NYFB’s public policy director, said the bureau is also focusing on reducing energy and labor costs, helping more farmers implement the use of new technology and finding more funding for educational institutions to keep their important research going.

Addressing a trend that’s being debated nationwide, NYFB also noted they are working with state and federal agencies so hemp crops can be grown and harvested in New York State.

More detailed information on these issues for the coming year will be released soon.