Growers angry over new overtime regulations

Golden Harvest Farms has grown from a small apple-growing operation to a multipronged business that includes a retail stand, cider press, distillery, tasting room and barbecue restaurant.

But owner Mr. Grout said he sees a cloudier future for the business due to new state regulations that will require him to increasingly pay more overtime to the farmworkers who pick his apples in the coming years, raising one of his primary costs reports

“We were looking to buy another orchard, and that whole thing is tabled,” said Mr. Grout, 52 years old, who co-owns Golden Harvest with his father. “We’re stepping away. You’re going to see farms go out of business. This is very short-sighted.”

State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon signed an order last month that will gradually lower the threshold at which farmworkers must be paid the overtime rate of time-and-a-half, from 60 hours—where it was set in 2020—to 40 hours in 2032. The threshold will fall in four-hour increments starting in 2024.

Agriculture groups including New York’s apple industry lobbied against the change, arguing that it could force some farmers to close and sell their land. Labor groups and Democratic officials said farms should be able to cope because the change’s full effect won’t be felt for a decade and a tax credit enacted this year will help make up for increased overtime costs.

New York is one of seven states with laws allowing agricultural overtime, though only three have decided to lower the threshold to 40 hours, the legal overtime standard for workers in most other industries. The agriculture overtime threshold in California, which was set at 60 hours in 1976, dropped to 40 hours this year. Washington will implement a 40-hour farm overtime threshold in 2024.

“A hobby farm isn’t going to feed the country,” he said.

New York state has more than 600 orchards covering more than 50,000 acres.

Publication date:

Receive the daily newsletter in your email for free | Click here

Other news in this sector:

Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber