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Home » News » New York State » USDA allocates $65M to aid state ag employers amid labor challenges

USDA allocates $65M to aid state ag employers amid labor challenges

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released $65 million in grants to support agricultural employers in New York, experiencing labor shortages and adjusting to new labor regulations. The availability of these funds comes as Secretary of the USDA, Tom Vilsack, acknowledges the intensifying workforce challenges that threaten the country’s agricultural competitiveness and food system safety and abundance. This funding initiative, named the Fair Labor Stabilization and Protection Pilot Program, stems from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan and aims to fortify lawful migration routes for workers via the H-2A program.

The program is crafted to provide simultaneous advantages to both workers and employers, aiming to elevate labor standards and address agricultural workforce issues in the long term. Secretary Vilsack emphasized the program’s intention to ensure knowledge and adherence to worker rights and to create safer work environments for farm laborers. The grants, ranging between $25,000 and $2 million, are dependent on the anticipated number of full-time employees and can be applied for by agricultural employers, offering a solution to labor challenges, and helping to establish accountability and improved working conditions for both domestic and H-2A workers.

This financial aid precedes the upcoming labor regulation alterations in New York, which will reduce overtime hours for farmworkers from 60 to 40 hours over the upcoming decade. The New York Farm Bureau has voiced concerns over these changes, highlighting the significant hurdles labor challenges pose to New York agriculture. However, the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets has expressed support for the USDA’s program, viewing it as a substantial step towards resolving workforce challenges faced by New York farmers. The state is keen to leverage this program to forge clear employment pathways in the agricultural and food sectors and enhance the state’s food supply system.