NY Farm Bureau does not want state minimum wage raised
Amid talks to raise the minimum wage in New York, farmers are calling on the lawmakers to keep it where it is.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to increase the minimum wage to $10.50 upstate and $11.50 downstate.
The New York Farm Bureau says the state has some of the highest agricultural labor costs in the country. They say farm workers in New York are paid $12.15 an hour on average.
Dean Norton, a farmer in western New York and president of the state Farm Bureau, says whenever there’s a minimum wage hike, he’s forced to raise his wages, too.
“If you’re going to give the minimum wage increase of 75 cents to one of your younger workers or probationary workers, you have to give that same wage rate to all your employees. Because if one gets a raise, they all want a raise,” said Norton. “And if that raise doesn’t get happening, you could lose some very good workers because they’re going to go to the place that will pay them more.”
The minimum wage in New York state already scheduled to increase to $9 by the end of the year.
Brian Reeves, a produce farmer in Baldwinsville, says he already pays his workers well above minimum wage. But, when it increases, he feels the pressure to raise pay, too. Reeves says that would put a squeeze on his farm.
“I need to compete with Pennsylvania. I need to compete with Wisconsin. I need to compete with Michigan – places that typically have fewer expenses to farm than we do in New York. There’s no doubt it’s a high cost state to do business in and we’re constantly being reminded by buyers,” said Reeves. “Every time one of these changes happens, it’s just one more nail in the coffin to farms in New York state.”
Reeves estimates the wage hike would cost him about $55,000 a year.
The Farm Bureau says Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Idaho all still follow the federal minimum of $7.25. In California it's $9 and set to rise to $10 in 2016. Norton wants New York to link the state minimum wage to the federal one.
A final decision on the minimum wage is expected to be included in the state budget, which is supposed to be finalized by April 1.