Labor Department to Strengthen Farm Regulations

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed several changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would strengthen prohibitions on child labor in the agricultural sector. The FLSA, originally passed in the 1930s, established several modern labor practices, including minimum wage laws, overtime regulations, and stringent regulations on the use of child labor. The proposed regulations are the first time since the 1970s that the FLSA’s regulations on child agricultural labor have been updated.

The proposal would attempt to standardize child labor regulations between agricultural and nonagricultural jobs. Primarily affecting children under 16, the new regulations would limit their use of hazardous farm equipment. For example, children under 16 would be prohibited from operating farm vehicles and most other power-driven machinery.

In addition to governing farm machinery, the regulations would limit underage participation in various farm jobs. For example, children would be prohibited from working with pesticides, manure, timber, storage pits, and many farm animals. Nonagricultural workers under 18 would also be prohibited from working in silos, stockyards, feedlots, and grain elevators.

The proposed regulations come in the wake of a series of farm fatalities involving children that have taken place across the country. In addition to these deaths, over the last year a number of farms have been charged with violating child labor regulations. The Labor Department hopes that these proposals will make child farm labor safer and will prevent the exploitation of children.

The Labor Department will be accepting comments from the public until November 1.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer