Focus turns to educational programs to reduce farm accidents
The U.S. Department of Labor announced April 26 that it is withdrawing its proposed rule dealing with children who work in the agriculture sector.
The department said in its statement:
"The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations. The Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations.
"As a result, the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations.
"The decision to withdraw this rule — including provisions to define the 'parental exemption' — was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.
"Instead, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with rural stakeholders — such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H — to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices."
Farmers and politicians alike have applauded the decision.
"As a mother of two active children working on a multigeneration farm, I appreciate the effort to protect the safety of my children," said agriculture advocate and AgWeb blogger Cheryl Day. "However, creating a list of banned activities-performed by myself and many farmers and ranchers as a kid threatened the future of agriculture."
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the Senate Ag Committee, said she was glad the Department of Labor listened to the concerns of farm families.
"There must be strong safeguards to protect children from dangerous situations, but there needs to be an understanding that many children in rural communities learn about safety by helping their family on the farm," Stabenow said.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called the rule "ridiculous" and said that withdrawing it just made sense.
"It’s good the Labor Department rethought the ridiculous regulations it was going to stick on farmers and their families. It would have been devastating to farm families across the country," Grassley said. "Much of rural America was built on families helping families, neighbors helping neighbors. To even propose such regulations defies common sense, and shows a real lack of understanding as to how the family farm works. I’m glad the Obama administration came to its senses."
Day said she was thankful that the ag community worked together in voicing their concerns to the Department of Labor, and that she hopes for continued collaboration.
"Perhaps now the Department of Labor and Department of Agriculture can work together with the agriculture community to improve farm safety by utilizing FFA and 4-H programs to enhance farm safety courses for children," she said.
Know the Background:
Read the following articles from Farm Journal Media on the subject:
F arm groups say revision is a positive step, but rule still needs more work.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that it will revise part of its controversial farm labor rule that aims to increase protections for youth workers.
Stricter regulations bring new training requirements.
Five facts about the Proposed Child Labor in Agriculture Rule