SUNY Morrisville helps meet new demands of farm business with agricultural human resources management minor

Published date
9 a.m.

MORRISVILLE, N.Y. — A new minor in agricultural human resources management is preparing SUNY Morrisville graduates to meet the growing demands of the modern farm business.

“The diverse nature of the agricultural industry, increased agricultural labor laws and rapid consolidation of the agricultural industry are all factors influencing and creating the demand for this academic minor,” said Sheila Marshman, associate professor of agricultural business at SUNY Morrisville.

While farm business owners and managers continuously seek new labor sources with human resources management skills to manage the different challenges with agricultural labor, the new 15-credit minor will feed the industry with graduates skilled to address those needs.

“Modern farm business owners attracting a steady supply of reliable and productive employees is one of the greatest challenges facing U.S. agriculture,” Marshman said.

New challenges were created when The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act went into effect in New York State Jan. 1. Under the law, farm employers, owners and operators must comply with changes in labor requirements, including those regarding workers’ compensation, disability benefits and Paid Family Leave coverage, and other labor protections.

Ryan Haines ’01, owner of Junto Beef, LLC and Keystone BouMatic, LLC, a BouMatic and BouMatic Robotics dealer, applauds the new minor. “Although agriculture is a highly technologically advanced industry, managers cannot automate themselves out of working with people,” Haines said. “Success in the agricultural industrial industry is, in part, based on one’s ability to connect with and motivate people.”

The college’s agricultural human resources management minor covers a variety of topics including labor laws, human resources management, hiring, developing, training and retaining employees, workplace psychology, policy development and leadership, with specific emphasis on H2A (agricultural work visas), seasonal and migrant employees, housing, OSHA, labor and workers’ compensation audits.

“It is unlike traditional production agricultural degrees, as the focus of this curriculum is on the human side of agriculture,” Marshman said.

When they complete the program, students have the ability to conduct job analysis and develop position descriptions for the agricultural industry, develop strategies to improve productive human relations on farms, and correctly hire, train, retain, motivate and dismiss employees within production agriculture.

Graduates also will have the knowledge to implement practices in compliance with federal labor laws, housing and OSHA laws, and regulations on farms. 

The minor widens the college’s scope of agricultural business offerings, which include a B.B.A. in agricultural business development and an A.A.S. degree in agricultural business. A new master’s degree in food and agribusiness also is in the works.