Rural-state lawmakers and agriculture groups are up in arms about new Division of Labor (DOL) regulations that would limit the work that young people can do on farms.
Proposed DOL requirements for farm and ranch employers and restrictions on what youth can do on the farm would put that tradition at risk. There is concern that the proposed rule would increase legal liabilities to farm families, as well as force farmers to change the way they plant, harvest, handle livestock and do work on the farm every day. The regulations would also limit training for future farmers, affect youth's experience and involvement in programs such as FFA and 4-H and affect some youth's ability to earn money in the summer.
A group of more than 70 lawmakers in the House, led by Rep. Denny Rehberg (Mont.), sent a letter to the DOL that said the rule "challenges the conventional wisdom of what defines a family farm in the United States."
The way the current regulation is worded makes lawmakers and agriculture groups worry, and Rehberg said the next move for the DOL should be to withdraw the proposed changes. The Labor Department has been flooded with more than 6,000 comments about the new rules.
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) joined the National Pork Producers Council and National Turkey Federation in submitting final comments on Thursday in response to the DOL's proposed rule on child labor on farms.
"At the outset, we must state that we believe DOL has turned off course with this proposal and that what may have begun as a well-intentioned change to current law has resulted in a misguided proposal that will have damaging effects on farms and ranches across rural America. It appears that the far-reaching consequences of this proposed rule were never considered by DOL before the rule was issued," the comments stated.
The coalition cited specific sections of this proposed regulation that it felt were particularly misguided, including the parent-owned farm exemption and regulations on youth involving machinery, working with mature livestock, working at an elevation over six feet and working around manure storage.
"We request that DOL make considerable changes to the proposed rule before it is finalized. Should it not make the changes, America's farmers and ranchers will face considerable challenges in their efforts to produce safe and wholesome food products for the people of the United States and the world," the comments conclude.
"We appreciate the opportunity to join the National Pork Producers Council and the National Turkey Federation comments on this important issue for agriculture operations," said Peter Orwick, ASI executive director.
Reprinted in part from The Hill