Lopez Joins NY Farm Bureau, State Legislators and Farmers In Opposing Farmworkers Omnibus Labor Standards Bill

Assemblyman Calls Legislation “Final Nail in Coffin for NY’s Farms”
June 1, 2009
A member of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R, C, I – Schoharie) joined with New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton, the chairs and ranking members from the Senate and Assembly Agriculture Committee, and farmers from across the state at a press conference today in Albany to oppose Assembly Bill 1867, the Farmworkers Omnibus Labor Standards Bill.

“While Washington bails out AIG and other Wall Street businesses and provided New York State with hundreds of millions in increased social services funding, farmers across our state are suffering, especially dairy farmers, literally selling the farm. Albany, home to endless regulation, is considering another ill-advised bill that imposes more mandates on farmers, at a time when they certainly cannot afford it,” said Assemblyman Lopez, who has been urging his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to oppose this bill.

Eric Ooms, Vice President of NY Farm Bureau and a dairy farmer in Columbia County, stated, “We are here today because we all are very concerned about the impacts of this bill not only for farmers, but the workers themselves. This bill has many negative, unintended impacts for farm workers.”

Richard Ball, County Director of Schoharie County Farm Bureau and owner of Schoharie Valleys Farms, said, “At a time when upstate New York is hemorrhaging jobs, we have one sector, agriculture, which is still employing people. It strikes me that we should be helping them and not making their lives more difficult.”

The Farmworkers Omnibus Labor Standards Bill is legislation drafted by the Chairwoman of the Assembly Labor Committee, Catherine Nolan, with the aim to ensure farm workers are provided for. However, the bill’s imposition of overtime payroll mandates and various insurance costs will hurt workers more than they will help them. As Assemblyman Lopez explains, “Farmworkers keep coming back every year because they are treated well. Their food, housing, utilities, laundry, health and dental insurance, retirement and unemployment all are paid by the farms they work on. This bill, if enacted, would change all of that. The costs for farmers would rise, forcing them to hire more workers at a lower pay rate and with fewer benefits.”

Assemblyman Lopez also was among the members who signed a letter of opposition to the bill, which was sent to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week. The letter detailed the Assembly Agriculture Committee membership’s opposition to the legislation, in particular, how the bill will increase production costs for farmers, which were also recently raised by measures contained in the enacted 2009-10 State Budget.

Pictured above, Assemblyman Lopez (second from right) discusses the legislation with Mr. Norton (far right), Assemblyman Steve Hawley, and Oscar Vizcarra of Becker Farms and Vizcarra Vineyards.