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Heatwave and new laws challenge New York dairy farmers

Heatwave and new laws challenge New York dairy farmers

By Blake Jackson

New York's dairy farmers are facing a double whammy: extreme heat and a recently enacted law reducing farmworker overtime.

The heatwave is impacting cows' appetites, potentially leading to decreased milk production. Just like people, cows eat less when it's hot, mirroring human behavior in response to the scorching temperatures.

Adding to the challenge is a new state law that restricts the number of overtime hours farmworkers can clock. The law, implemented in January, reduces the overtime threshold from 60 hours to 56, with plans for further reductions every two years until it reaches 40 hours.

For dairy farms with large staffs and extensive livestock operations, adapting to these limitations requires significant adjustments. A sixth-generation dairy farmer with 17 employees and thousands of cows exemplifies the challenges faced by many in the industry.

However, there's a glimmer of hope. The state is offering tax credits to help farmers cope with the increased labor costs associated with the reduced overtime allowance. Additionally, a recently passed bill aims to address loopholes in the initial legislation and ensure fairer treatment for all farms in the state.

"It allows all farms to be treated equally in this process- the compromise that was made to make it affordable for farms in New York state," Keith Kimball Chair of the Northeast Dairy Association. "The bipartisan support for this legislation is a positive sign for New York residents."

The streamlined application process for the tax credits, starting July 1st, offers some immediate financial relief to farmers. While the heatwave presents a temporary hurdle, the long-term impact of the labor law changes remains to be seen. With state support and ongoing adjustments, New York's dairy farms are likely to adapt and persevere.

Photo Credit: gettyimages-fertnig

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Categories: New York, Livestock, Dairy Cattle, Weather

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