The Obama Administration’s Department of Labor (DOL) withdrew its proposed rule regarding youth in agriculture on April 26, 2012, but some felt that wasn't enough to provide certainty to the agriculture community. Congressman Tom Latham (R-Iowa) introduced the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act (H.R. 4157), which passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a voice vote yesterday.
H.R. 4157 prohibits the Secretary of Labor from finalizing or enforcing its previously proposed rule, which would have prevented youth from engaging in day-to-day farm and ranch activities. The legislation was also introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). The legislation (S. 2221) currently has 44 cosponsors.
National Cattlemen's Beef Association President J.D. Alexander commended passage of the legislation. He said the administration’s proposed rule could have restricted, and in some instances totally prevented, America’s youth from working on family farms and ranches.
"This is a victory for farm and ranch families throughout the country. This ridiculous rule would have prevented the next generation of farmers and ranchers from acquiring skills and passion for this very noble profession. It also would have restricted urban kids from working on farms and acquiring a solid work ethic and enthusiasm for this very diverse industry," said Alexander. "We absolutely have to have a sensible regulatory environment in Washington, D.C. We should not have to worry about negligent rules being promulgated by out-of-touch regulatory agencies. It is unfortunate that we need legislation to prevent these nonsensical regulations, but with this administration’s track record, it is necessary to trust but verify."
Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation said in a statement:
"We are heartened by the vote in the House of Representatives yesterday to pass the Preserving America's Family Farms Act. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA), and cosponsored by more than 90 other members, prohibits the Secretary of Labor from finalizing or enforcing such regulations in the future. This includes any effort, similar to what was made this year, to change the definition of the `parental exemption,’ change the student learner exemption, and significantly redefine what practices would be acceptable for youth under the age of 16 in which to participate.
"Even though the Department of Labor earlier this year withdrew its contentious proposed rule restricting the work that children could do on farms, NMPF remains concerned that the issue could surface again at some point in the future.
"Although the Obama Administration has said it won’t go down this path again, we want to be certain that subsequent administrations don’t attempt something similar, which is why this bill is needed. We continue to encourage the Labor Department to work with rural stakeholders to develop education programs to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices."