By McKenzie Delisle, Published August 3, 2019
CHAZY — Congresswoman Elise Stefanik stopped by Giroux’s Poultry Farm Friday morning, and vowed to continue to work towards securing ample work forces for agriculture.
The Area 21 representative took a tour of that egg-packaging facility in Chazy.
“I really got an opportunity to talk to the Giroux family about some of the challenges of running the farm,” Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) said. “I was able to learn a lot about the history of the poultry industry.”
Though it was her first time at the North Country business, Stefanik said she noticed some crossover to her 2018 tour of Giroux-owned Chazy Orchard.
“They took a lot of the ideas, in terms of technology used on eggs,” she said, “and they applied it the apple-packing facility that they own.”
Congress will be out of session most of this month and the congresswoman said she planned to take advantage.
“It’s a great time to get around the district,” Stefanik said. “I’ve hit, I think, 10 counties this week.
“It’s been a busy, busy kick-off to my August work period.”
The Giroux visit, Stefanik said, was long overdue.
“Obviously agriculture is hugely important to our North County economy,” she said, adding that the Giroux family employs hundreds of Upstate workers.
“Their commitment to the community — it’s an example of the importance of ag businesses,” she said. “It also highlights the importance of policy issues like fixing our immigration system.”
That would help with initiatives like the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers, Stefanik said.
That programs allows U.S. employers to hire foreign nationals for temporary jobs and is used by many Upstate agriculture businesses.
“We have a workforce challenge in the ag industry and making sure that we have workable ag-Visa programs — that’s my priority at the federal level,” Stefanik said.
As far as New York’s recently passed farm labor laws, Stefanik had some concerns.
The new legislation allows farm workers to unionize and requires employers pay overtime to those who work 60-plus hours a week.
“I’ve talked to a lot of farmers in the North Country, and across my district, who are concerned about the limitations it’s going to create for them,” Stefanik said Friday.
“If you think about it, for apple orchards in particular, they have a very short period of time when they are able to pick their products and bring them to market.
“Having that limitation with the overtime will really impact their business.”
And, she added, many workers who come from places like Jamaica to pick apples, are grateful for the hours.
“They come here to work,” she said. “They’ve been coming here for decades — many times (it’s in the) second generation of a family.”
‘LISTEN TO FARMERS’
Stefanik’s large concern, though, is the small Upstate influence.
“If you look at what’s happening in Albany right now, you have so few voices in the (State Senate) majority that are from Upstate New York,” she said.
“The fact that the author of that bill was from Queens — there are not farms in Queens like there are in Upstate New York,” she continued. “If I were in the State Senate, I think they should listen to the farmers.
“I think the farmers should give them the best advice about what types of updates they need to the law.”
After her Friday stop at Grioux Poultry, Stefanik was headed down to Jefferson County for a roundtable about St. Lawrence River troubles.
And the congresswoman’s other stops this week have included an opioid roundtable in Lewis County and a tour of the Elizabethtown Community Hospital.
The congresswoman said she was approaching her 1,000th district event since taking office in 2015.
“That just shows how active I am in working the district,” she said. “It’s a big district; it’s a diverse district — a lot of different economic issues.”
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