Farm Worker Advocates Suffer Legislative Defeat

New York Farm Worker Advocates have suffered a legislative defeat in the New York Senate earlier this week. A proposed farm bill would have extended farm labor benefits. Among these benefits, the bill would have given farm workers time-and-a-half pay, and would have mandated 24 hours of consecutive rest each week. In addition, the bill would have extended collective bargaining rights and expanded union powers.
Farm advocates say they are disappointed by the legislative defeat. “At this point, we’re assessing where things stand and figuring out a new course of action,” said the Rev. Richard Witt, the executive director of Rural and Migrant Ministry. In addition, State Senator Pedro Espada pledged to renew his support for these reforms and promised to go bring the bill back to committee to try to figure out what provisions state legislators opposed.
Opposing this bill is the Farm Bureau, New York’s preeminent lobbyists for agricultural issues, who argued that it would add $200 million in addition costs to an already struggling industry. Many New York farmers are also hailing the defeat of this bill. “I think the farmers that I know and certainly Farm Bureau members are really delighted at the result of this debate,” said Mark Doyle, the business manager at Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction. In addition to the business aspect of the debate, the Farm Bureau claimed that the debate was particularly acrimonious. “He’s [Espada] been out there saying some pretty slanderous things about our industry and our farmers,” said Peter Gregg, spokesperson for the Farm Bureau.
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