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An unintended effect of the Farm Labor Bill

The recently passed Farm Labor Bill will likely threaten the livelihood of many upstate farmers, but they’re not the only ones who will be affected.

Posted: Jun 26, 2019 5:53 PM
Updated: Jun 26, 2019 6:13 PM

FRANKFORT - The "Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act", which recently passed the New York State Assembly, will require farmers to pay their employees time and a half for any work over 60 hours per week. It also requires every employee to have at least one day off each week.

Farmers already compete for labor, and many farmhands already receive benefits like free housing, transportation, and paid time off. Frankfort farmer Chris Entwistle says he's fortunate enough to have been born into the farming business, because the industry has become so competitive.

"In this economy, unless something changes, I don’t think someone starting a farm from scratch… I don’t see how they would be able to do it."

The Entwistles have 20 employees working on the farm full-time, so paying out overtime would be a big expense. Cutting hours could force the employees to look elsewhere, and losing them might ruin the business.

Co-owner James Entwistle tells NewsChannel 2 it’s not just farmers that could take a financial hit.

"That’s one thing with farming, it’s not only those 20 people, but all the people we do business with in the area. You know the ag economy, it’s just helping. You know so… what happens, you know if we’re not here. What happens with all those businesses?"

Entwistle says if your farm’s not growing, it’s probably dying. But he also says even growing your farm comes with some drawbacks.

"Putting more milk out there is actually hurting the price, but if we’re not doing that we’re out. We’re out of business."

It’s too soon to tell what these dairy farmers will do to make ends meet. One thing is certain - for Chris Entwistle, farming is in their blood.

"It doesn’t matter what happens. How bad it gets. Farmers are going to find a way to get through it. I mean the country can’t live without farmers."

The bill now awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo's signature, and his office says he plans to sign it.

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