Farm Talk

May 1, 2012

Youth farm labor law withdrawn by DOL


CNHI

Parsons, Kansas — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) issued the following statement in response to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) announcement this evening that it has withdrawn a proposed rule dealing with youth working in agriculture:

American farmers and ranchers received welcome news this evening: the Department of Labor finally listened to them and withdrew its proposed youth farm labor rule, which would have fundamentally altered the future of agriculture in our country. If the Department would have moved forward with regulating the relationship between parents and children on their own farm, a dangerous precedent would have been set; virtually nothing would be off limits when it comes to government intrusion into our lives.

“Out of respect for the rural way of life, the Administration has agreed to not pursue this regulation further. Instead it will work with rural stakeholders—such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, FFA, and 4-H—to promote safety among youth workers in agriculture. This is exactly what we have been asking for all along—those who know agriculture best should have been consulted from the start.

“For generations, the contributions of young people have helped family farm and ranch operations survive and prosper. If this proposal had gone into effect, not only would the shrinking rural workforce have been further reduced, and our nation’s youth deprived of valuable career training opportunities, but a way of life would have begun to disappear. This is a tremendous victory for farmers and ranchers across the country.”

Last year, DOL Secretary Hilda Solis proposed rules that would restrict family farm operations by prohibiting youth under the age of 16 from 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.

In December of last year, Moran and 29 of his Senate colleagues sent a letter to Secretary Solis requesting that the proposed rule be withdrawn.

In March of this year, Moran and U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced legislation, the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act, to prevent the Department of Labor (DOL) from enacting its controversial proposed restrictions on youth working on family farms.