Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Michelle Hinchey doesn’t want the Hochul administration to reconvene a special wage board this year that could lower the state’s minimum overtime threshold for farmworkers in New York.

The Ulster County Democrat, who stressed that she believes in paying everyone enough to “live with dignity,” said the state’s agriculture sector needs to be more stable before lowering the overtime threshold below 60 hours per week, which went into effect at the start of 2020 as the result of a state law adopted the year before.

The state Department of Labor has the authority to convene a three-person wage board, which is empowered to make recommendations on the overtime threshold that could be adopted by state regulators. The wage board was convened in 2020 and – after a series of hearings and meetings – did not recommend making changes to the overtime threshold.

In recent months, there has been a general expectation around the Capitol that the department would reconvene the board. On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the department said, “The Wage Board has not yet been reconvened.”

Labor activists are hoping to get the threshold down to 40 hours per week, but Hinchey says that would make it impossible for many farms in New York to afford to stay in business. “Not because they don’t want to pay more money, but because they actively can’t, because the costs of farming do not equal the costs that they are paid for the product,” she said.

“We have to take a minute and figure out how we can support New York agriculture in a way that is sustainable for the long term,” Hinchey added.

In September, Senate Labor Committee Chair Jessica Ramos, a Queens Democrat, told The Capitol Pressroom that she supports getting to a 40-hour-a-week threshold, but left it up to a future wage board to determine the time frame for getting to that point.