Labor Department to Reconsider Farm Rules

The U.S. Department of Labor is planning on reconsidering and reproposing controversial farm labor rules suggested late last year.

The new labor regulations would tighten current child labor laws, limiting the ability of children to perform certain farm tasks. The regulations, for example, would raise the minimum age of child farm workers to 16, would limit the ability of children from operating many types of powered farm equipment, and would prohibit children from working dangerous farm jobs, such as in silos or with certain animal breeds.

The regulation would not have applied to children working on family farms.

The suggested reforms touched off a firestorm in the agricultural community, with farm advocacy groups across the country protesting the regulations as detrimental to agricultural production. Many farmers worried that their available labor pool could dwindle if the new regulations went into place and many farmers questioned the rules’ necessity.

Of particular concern to many farmers was the strictness of the family farm exemption. In many farms across the country, families work land not directly owned by the family itself. For example, many families contribute labor on farms owned by extended family members, or on farms partially owned by family members. The regulations, as proposed, would not exempt those farms from the new child labor rules.

In the wake of opposition from farmers, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has announced that the Labor Department will repropose the regulations with an extended family exemption that would cover situations where parents may not be the sole owners of the farm in question.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer