The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced that the widely disputed proposals regarding child labor on farms have been withdrawn. The proposed changes, announced in 2011, suggested prohibiting youth under the age of 16 from using power equipment, working with livestock in certain circumstances, driving tractors or working at heights above six feet.
In a statement, the DOL clarified its decision to withdraw the proposal.
"The decision to withdraw this rule – including provisions to define the 'parental exemption' – was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration,” the DOL said in the statement.
Instead of pursuing changes that would severely limit the work opportunities for youth interested in agricultural vocations, the DOL will work with rural stakeholders, including the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the National Farmers Union (NFU), the FFA and 4-H, to develop an educational program to help reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices.
Agriculture groups are celebrating the DOL’s decision, claiming victory over what was called by many organizations and politicians as overreaching by the government that would threaten the future of agriculture.
AFBF President Bob Stallman reacted to the announcement, praising the Obama administration and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack for listening to farmers, ranchers and rural Americans. He also specially thanked Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Representative Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., for their efforts in Congress.
“This victory for farm families is due to the thousands of farmers and ranchers who sent comments to the Labor Department opposing the rules and continued to voice their concerns with members of Congress,” Stallman said in a news release. “This announcement shows the strength of American agriculture and grassroots action.”
Here is a quick look at responses from other organizations:
“This is a victory for farm and ranch families throughout the country. This ridiculous rule would have prevented the next generation of farmers and ranchers from acquiring skills and passion for this very noble profession. It also would have restricted urban kids from working on farms and acquiring a solid worth ethic and enthusiasm for this very diverse industry. We absolutely have to have a sensible regulatory environment in Washington, D.C. We should not have to worry about negligent rules being promulgated by out-of-touch regulatory agencies. We encourage the administration to venture off the city sidewalks and learn more about where their food comes from.”