I have read several editorials, news stories and public comments on the proposed Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act and believe we also need a voice from an actual farm employee. Not a voice filtered through a labor group or lobbyist. Many people are employed by large and small farms alike in Cayuga County.
As a crop production employee myself I feel that the proposed legislation will effect our local farms negatively. Most people stereotypically label farm workers as low-paid, poorly educated, low-skilled people. This cannot be further from the truth. Many of us are highly trained professionals from various trades and backgrounds who have a passion for agriculture and love to be a part of the day-to-day tasks and activities of a farm. From skilled mechanics to nutritionists and equipment operators, farm workers must be at the top of their respected fields in today's high-paced and technologically driven agriculture industry.
With all of this being said many of us who "work on farms" are hired to do a skilled trade by farmers who compete for talent in the same pool as every other industry that requires the same type of workforce, allowing businesses to set the wage and compete for talent only benefits the employees. The proposed legislation will only hurt employees' abilities to earn a good wage due to farms consolidating labor and outsourcing. This will trickle down to the many people who work in fields who support farms such as trucking companies, consulting services, etc. Farm-employed workers have to give the same amount of time and effort as the people who employ them. I'm certain that nearly all of the farmers who employ hired help recognize this and truly appreciate it and do their best to compensate workers accordingly.
We are all a team and an extended family on the farm. We help each other in any way possible while doing what we all love to do. Legislation is not the answer. Public awareness of agriculture and a government that promotes New York agriculture to be at a competitive advantage in today's harsh market's will only improve farm wages and benefits for hired employees.