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Updates to Unemployment Insurance Law Help Small Farms

Friday, October 3, 2014   (0 Comments)
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MARLBOROUGH, MA October 2, 2014 -- Small farms have long been exempt from paying Unemployment Insurance. This is largely because the cost of providing insurance for seasonal workers was more than most farms could afford. Both the federal and state government have exempted farms from paying unemployment insurance if their quarterly payroll was less than $20,000.

“Unfortunately, as the cost of living has gone up, the $20,000 quarterly threshold has remained the same (since the 1980’s),” said Dr. Richard Bonanno, President of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation. “We’ve seen an almost 30% increase in the number of new farms in the Commonwealth during the last decade, yet many are struggling to survive due to high operating costs.”

Legislation introduced by Representative Kate Hogan, and signed into law by Governor Patrick this fall, restores the intended benefits to small farms by increasing the threshold for exemption to $40,000 per quarter. It also fixes a glitch in state law which prohibits farms from regaining the exemption if they exceed it even once.  Federal law allows a farm to regain the exemption if they remain under the threshold for two years.

“This is a case where the law hadn’t kept pace with the needs of small businesses,” said Representative Hogan.  “Payroll had increased but the payroll exemption for Unemployment Insurance had remained the same."

“If you want to promote small farms and local agriculture, you can’t have one-size-fits-all requirements,” said Dr. Bonanno. “Our thanks to Representative Hogan, Representative Tom Conroy, Senator Michael Rodrigues, and the legislature for recognizing this.”

The Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation is a non-profit, member-driven organization representing over 5,000 family members across the Commonwealth. Its mission is “to protect the rights, encourage the growth, and be of service to its members, in the best interest of agriculture.”

Contact: Dr. A. Richard Bonanno, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, tel. 978-361-5650, fax 508-481-4768, email, 249 Lakeside Ave., Marlborough, MA 01752

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