Farmers, Farm Groups Worry Over Child Labor Rules

December 20, 2011 03:49 AM
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via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Vilsack tries to settle farmer concerns

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

The Labor Department, sources signal, will ease pending rules regarding some kids under 16 who work on farms – the rules will not likely be finalized until 2013.

Farm groups feel the rules conflict with farm families' statutory exemption from workplace safety rules – the law leaves safety of kids in farm families up to parents.

Coming federal requirements for kids will mandate work only on tractors equipped with roll bars and seat belts.

Another concern: whether coming rules will restrict ability of ag vocational trainers to teach youth how to operate machines safely.

On the USDA blog, Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote that “it’s important to know” that the Department of Labor “is not proposing any changes to how a son or daughter can help on their family farm.” Further, Vilsack wrote on December 12th, “There is nothing in the proposed rule that affects the ability of parents and families to assign chores and tasks to their children.” Vilsack said the proposed rule “respects the various ways that farms are structured in rural America, including partnerships and LLC’s.” Vilsack said the Labor Department is considering ways “to simply protect the safety of children hired to work on a farm.”

Vilsack said he wanted to clear up the “confusion and concern” in Rural America about the proposals adding that statistics show “while only 4 percent of working youth are in the agriculture sector, 40 percent of fatalities of working kids are associated with machines, equipment, or facilities related to agriculture.”

Comments: As with so many regulatory concerns, just having someone say they will not impact you is not enough. In this case, farmers want proof. And not just short-term proof. For example, will there be any change on this and other regulatory initiatives during any second term Obama administration? Many believe the answer to that question is yes.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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