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What's contributing to the rising cost of produce?

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Posted at 10:54 PM, Feb 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 13:12:09-05

EDEN, N.Y. (WKBW) — The price of produce is growing. One Western New York farmer said there are several factors contributing to the rising cost of fruits and vegetables at the grocery store.

"I think it's a factor of inflation, but also logistics. How many people are working? What is the workforce out there getting done? What does the supply chain look like? I'm sure those are all factors that come into play," David Zittel, the vice president of Amos Zittel and Sons Farm, said.

Zittel said operating their business is more expensive than ever. The cost of the boxes used to transport their vegetables is up about 30%.

"Which is going to drive our cost of business this year up $100,000. We don't quite know where that's going to come from. Same thing with fertilizers. They're up 30-50%. We all know the transportation issues and gas costs," Zittel said.

But Zittel said there's a bigger issue. New York State may create a rule that lets farm workers earn overtime after working 40 hours a week. Right now, the threshold is at 60 hours.

Zittel said he's concerned this will put New York farmers at a disadvantage compared to farmers in other states.

"We're very fearful that if this goes through, we will definitely be put at an unfair disadvantage to try and compete," Zittel said.

"We want to get it right for them as well and make sure that we take care of our workers, give them what they need but also give the farmers perhaps tax relief to help ameliorate the impact. It is not final, but we're getting close," Governor Kathy Hochul said.

But Zittel said that tax break will not offset $500,000 in higher labor costs. He said raising the price of produce isn't an option. He said he doesn't think New Yorkers will be willing to pay more for produce from the state.

"We were awarded [a century farm award] in the 1990s for being in business over 100 years. I had envisions, that if I lived as long as my dad who still works on the farm and is 84, that I would see 150 years. I'm starting to question that," Zittel said.