New York state is looking at lowering the farm worker overtime threshold from 60 hours a week in a move that is quickly being met by praise and backlash.

Kathy Whyte/WNBF News
Kathy Whyte/WNBF News
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A state board voted Friday, January 28 to recommend that a 40-hour overtime rule for farm workers be phased in over the next 10 years. The Associated Press reports If the recommendation is approved by the state labor commissioner, New York would join California and Washington state in phasing in an overtime threshold common in other industries.

Some citizens groups and advocates for immigrant workers are praising the action as a small step toward paying a livable wage to what some consider essential workers when it comes to the food supply.

The prospect, however, is alarming especially small-operation farmers. They warn the extra costs would wipe out marginal farms, hobble others and actually reduce workers’ earnings if farmers cap hours to manage expenses.

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New York Senate candidate and former Binghamton Mayor Richard David is among those objecting to the move.  The Republican issued a statement Saturday, January 29 saying the “mandate will hurt farmers, period.”

The group, Upstate United, which bills itself as a non partisan “advocacy coalition made up of business and trade organizations from all parts of Upstate New York.” Also issued a statement over the weekend claiming: the “Farm Labor Wage Board has advanced a plan to annihilate thousands of family farms.”

The Labor Commissioner can now accept, reject or modify the changes.

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