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Congressional candidate supports farm owner concerns with overtime pay expansion

Republican Representative Claudia Tenney could see her 22nd Congressional District undergo a major remapping by the Democrats who control New York's state government. (Robert Lane/WSKG)

WRVO - Earlier this month, a state wage board recommended the overtime threshold for farm workers be lowered from 60-hours to 40-hours. But, some farm owners are worried about how this will affect their industry.

Central New York Republican Congresswoman Claudia Tenney met Monday with local farmers in Ontario County to hear concerns about proposed overtime legislation. Tenney has cosponsored H.R. 8756 – the Protect Local Farms Act – which, if passed, would prevent the New York State Farm Laborers Wage Board from lowering overtime.

“The workers don’t like it,” Tenney said. “It’s not going to be good for the farmers and it could potentially close a lot of our farms. We want to make this an option for farmers. We want them to be able to thrive and survive and so I am cosponsoring this bill along with a couple members from Upstate New York.”

Dale Hemminger, the primary owner and CEO of Hemdale Farms and Greenhouses, said he’s concerned about the effect of a 40-hour overtime threshold on New York farms.

“The people who are making these regulations do not understand our industry or how it's going to affect it,” Hemminger said. “Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Canada, do not have these regulations and will simply be able to produce these products cheaper than I’ll be able to and I’ll have to change my business model and move in another direction.”

Hemminger said he believes most lawmakers have good intentions, but that they need to better understand the agriculture industry to find middle ground.

“The 60 hours that was enacted three years ago was middle ground and our industry has adjusted to that,” Hemminger said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon have until late October to make a decision on the farm worker overtime threshold recommendation. If approved, the overtime threshold would gradually decrease reaching 40 hours in 2032.