“If the federal government can regulate the relationship between parents and their children on their own family’s farm there is virtually nothing off limits”
– Senator Jerry Moran
The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing revisions to child labor regulations that will strengthen the safety requirements for young workers employed in agriculture and related fields. The agricultural hazardous occupations orders under the Fair Labor Standards Act that bar young workers from certain tasks have not been updated since they were promulgated in 1970.
The department is proposing updates based on the enforcement experiences of its Wage and Hour Division, recommendations made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and a commitment to bring parity between the rules for young workers employed in agricultural jobs and the more stringent rules that apply to those employed in nonagricultural workplaces. The proposed regulations would not apply to children working on farms owned by their parents.
“Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department, and this proposal is another element of our comprehensive approach.”
The proposal would strengthen current child labor regulations prohibiting agricultural work with animals and in pesticide handling, timber operations, manure pits and storage bins. It would prohibit farmworkers under age 16 from participating in the cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco. And it would prohibit youth in both agricultural and nonagricultural employment from using electronic, including communication, devices while operating power-driven equipment.
The department also is proposing to create a new nonagricultural hazardous occupations order that would prevent children under 18 from being employed in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials. Prohibited places of employment would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.
Additionally, the proposal would prohibit farmworkers under 16 from operating almost all power-driven equipment. A similar prohibition has existed as part of the nonagricultural child labor provisions for more than 50 years. A limited exemption would permit some student learners to operate certain farm implements and tractors, when equipped with proper rollover protection structures and seat belts, under specified conditions.
The proposed rules only affect “hired farm workers,” not those working on farms owned by their parents.
So that should make us all breath a sigh of relief for the American farm family right?
This just shows how much the Obamacrats are out of touch with America’s farm belt. In multi-generational farm families, you often have several siblings or other relatives living in close proximity. Parts of the operation may be owned by several family members. Some of the land may be rented. Some family farms are technically considered limited liability corporations or other such arrangements. It can get complicated.
Johnny might work on his dad’s farm, but he might also go right next door to his uncle’s property to work for him a few hours in the afternoon. These rule changes would make that traditional practice much more difficult.
Under these rules, kids wouldn’t get to drive (or sometimes even ride!) tractors. Typically, farm youngsters drive tractors from an early age. I did. My 14-year old nephew, an experienced tractor driver, tells me he started driving a tractor at about age 7 and was driving in the field by 9 or 10.
Not only do the new regulations prohibit the kids’ driving tractors, except under certain conditions, they can’t even ride the tractors!
Farm kids would also be restricted from working with livestock.
To be sure, livestock, like farm machinery, can be dangerous. I remember my dad told me never to turn my back on a bull. But does the DOL think farmers aren’t aware of the dangers? That’s precisely why farm children are exposed to the farm operations from an early age, then gradually placed into positions of more and more responsibility.
Thankfully Senators Thune and Moran along with 37 co-sponsors are offering up a bill to fight this attack our farmers:
Last year, DOL Secretary Hilda Solis proposed rules that would restrict family farm operations by prohibiting youth under the age of 18 from being near certain age animals without adult supervision, participating in common livestock practices such as vaccinating and hoof trimming, and handling most animals more than six months old, which would severely limit participation in 4-H and FFA activities and restrict their youth farm safety classes; operating farm machinery over 20 PTO horsepower; completing tasks at elevations over six feet high; and working at stockyards and grain and feed facilities. The language of the proposed rule is so specific it would even ban youth from operating a battery powered screwdriver or a pressurized garden hose.
“The Department of Labor has proposed 85 pages of unreasonable and overreaching rules that would unnecessarily restrict the participation of young people in agriculture related activities,” said Thune. “Family farms and farming communities teach young people responsible work ethics and these proposed rules would change that by severely limiting the commonplace activities in which young people can learn about agriculture. This is another example of the Obama administration initiating unsolicited regulations that would prohibit normal practices that have been carried out in rural areas for generations—not to mention limiting a desperately needed workforce to replace the current generation of farmers whose average age is nearing 60 years old.”
“There is no better example of the vast overreach of government into the everyday lives of Americans than the Department of Labor’s proposed rule to regulate young people working on farms and ranches,” Sen. Moran said. “For generations, the contributions of young people have helped family farm and ranch operations survive and prosper. If this proposal goes into effect, not only will the shrinking rural workforce be further reduced, and our nation’s youth be deprived of valuable career training opportunities, but a way of life will begin to disappear. This proposal should alarm more than just rural America
The Department of Labor Secretary, a person who cares little if immigrant’s are legal or not, put these new proposals up last year but the outcry was so great she had to postpone the implementation and just announced last month they she will “re-propose” the “Parental Exemption” regulation.
Either way this is just one more example of Obama regulating every little aspect of our lives.