Letter: Farmworkers have many protections

A farm worker prepares a tomato field for

A farm worker prepares a tomato field for planting at K&D Farmers near Oneonta, Ala. The farm is among the operations in Alabama where farmers say they are cutting back on planting produce because of labor uncertainties caused by the state's tough law on illegal immigration. (May 10, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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It is a shame that Nathan Berger's recent op-ed, "Workers should reap fruits of labor" [May 5], paints with such broad strokes, falsely portraying the treatment of our farms' valuable employees.

Berger said farmworkers are excluded from basic labor protections. That is a fallacy. There is a long list of state and federal regulations covering everything from clean workplace housing to health and safety standards to wages, which are on average nearly $11 an hour for a beginning New York farmworker.

The Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act would only limit the opportunities of farms and their employees. The proposal of overtime after an eight-hour day is unheard of in agriculture. Rain can force us out of the fields for a few days, and we must then make up for lost time.

The proposal would force farmers to limit an employee's workday and seek other employees to fill the gaps. The farm employee would lose income.

Berger also fails to mention that skilled farmworkers are in high demand, and if conditions are poor in any way, they can find another job literally down the road.

The New York Farm Bureau has long been a champion of migrant workers' rights, actively campaigning for laws against human trafficking, working to improve sanitation, supporting a day of rest for workers, and leading the fight for immigration reform. This would go a long way to providing workers already in this country with more stable and better lives.

Joe Gergela, Calverton

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Editor's note: The writer is the director of the Long Island Farm Bureau.

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