Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jola Szubielski 518-457-0752
Dave Bullard 315-487-7711 x 1377

August 21, 2015

Departments of Agriculture and Markets, Labor and Health Announce Joint Initiatives to Help Agriculture Employers Understand and Comply With the Law

New Agriculture Labor Advisory Board will Give Farm Employers Opportunity to Offer Input and Recommendations on Workforce Development Issues

Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball, Acting State Labor Commissioner Mario J. Musolino and State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker yesterday joined educators, agriculture employers, industry representatives, and government leaders for a roundtable discussion at SUNY Cobleskill to plan future workforce development initiatives for the agriculture industry. As part of Governor Cuomo's Capital for a Day in the Mohawk Valley, the state agencies announced a package of initiatives to coordinate farmworker housing inspections and to clarify employer responsibilities related to wage deductions. 

“Thanks to Governor Cuomo and his Capital for a Day initiative, we’ve been presented with a great opportunity to get all the right people in the room to continue discussions about how we can work together to address some of the workforce issues that are important to the agriculture community. Yesterday’s session was a success, resulting in real solutions that will have a meaningful impact on our farmers and stakeholders.”

“We know employers can be confused by revisions to regulations and because the regulatory standards differ between agencies – we aim to change that,” said Acting Commissioner Musolino. “By partnering with the Departments of Agriculture and Markets and Health, we are creating a more streamlined approach to education and enforcement.”

“The work that our state’s farmers do is critical to the health and well-being of all New Yorkers,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. “It’s important that we do what we can to ease their workload. In this case, we are streamlining requirements for seasonal housing, which will help them focus on their main task at hand: growing produce for the state of New York.”

Farm Worker Memorandum of Understanding

The Departments of Labor and Health have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to streamline pre-occupancy and occupancy inspections for farmworker housing, adding clarity for employers and saving them time. The MOU comes in response to farm employers’ concerns about different, and confusing, government standards for migrant farmworker housing.

The agreement codifies each agency’s responsibility as to when and what level of inspections are required to avoid duplicative inspections and inconsistency in standards.

Webinar on Wage Deductions

The Department of Labor will further help agriculture employers by launching a series of webinars providing specific guidance on wage deductions and reviewing an employer’s rights and responsibilities.  The webinars will be held beginning this month, scheduled in consultation with employers. Staff will be available in each region to deliver the presentation in person for growers who are unable to attend or view the webinar. For more information, visit:

Agriculture Labor Advisory Group

In addition, the Departments of Agriculture and Markets, Health and Labor have announced the formation of an Agriculture Labor Advisory Group, the members of which will be announced before November 1. This will be an opportunity for agriculture community constituents—both employers and workforce advocates—to discuss important issues and develop recommendations on key labor issues.

The first focus of the advisory group is to make recommendations on strengthening the agriculture workforce pipeline to reduce the high youth unemployment rate and to help farm employers find entry-level and skilled workers. 

These initiatives build on the efforts of Governor Cuomo’s Strategic Interagency Task Force on Lessening Obstacles to Agriculture (SILO), formed to address barriers to the growth of New York’s agricultural economy.

Photo: Roundtable discussion at SUNY Cobleskill

2015 Press Releases