Farm safety expert: Know what's in proposed child labor law

 Resize text         Printer-friendly version of this article Printer-friendly version of this article

Parents of children who work on the family farm or are in agriculture education programs should thoroughly review proposed changes to child labor laws so they fully understand how the new rules could affect them, a Purdue farm safety specialist advises.

"Because the proposed rule changes are 51 pages long, I don't know that many people understand exactly what's being presented," Bill Field said. "The changes not only hold the potential for positive but also significant negative effects to youth less than 16 years old who seek employment or are currently employed in agriculture."

While the Agricultural Hazardous Occupations Order was written in an effort to protect children from dangerous situations, it could prevent many young people from working on family farms or participating in agriculture-related educational programs.

The U.S. Department of Labor on Feb. 1 temporarily shelved the legislation after complaints that it would erode the tradition of children working on their family-owned farm. Although it agreed to reinstate a "parental exemption" that would allow parents to assign on-farm duties to their children, Field said many other proposed rule changes could further restrict young people from working in agriculture.

Under the proposed changes, the "parental exemption" itself would not apply to incorporated family farms, Field noted.

"Many small, family farms are incorporated because of the tax advantages," he said. "But when a farm is incorporated, parents are considered a corporate entity and they would not be covered by the parental exemption."

Field said that due to negative feedback from producer groups, the U.S. Department of Labor has appeared to back off of this provision as it relates to incorporated farms. However, he said there has yet to be a published revision.

Educational programs such 4-H and the FFA's Supervised Agricultural Experience program, in which some students work on a farm or in some other agricultural business, also could be affected by the proposed changes, Field said.

While Field doesn't believe the rules are ready to be passed in their current form, he said it's time to update farm youth labor legislation. Current rules have not been updated since the 1960s.

"Even though there are significant concerns with many of the proposed rule changes, there is a need to review and revise the current rules to reflect changes in agricultural production practices and technology since the original rules were adopted more than 45 years ago," Field said.

The public comment period has passed, but those in favor of and opposed to the new legislation still have time to make their voices heard. Field encouraged those in agriculture to read about what's being proposed and contact legislators with their thoughts.

The proposed regulations can be read here:

Field and some of his colleagues will offer a free webinar to discuss the proposed legislation at 3 p.m. Feb. 29. For more information about participating, contact Field's office at 765-494-1191,

Comments (8) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

Marysville, Ohio  |  February, 22, 2012 at 05:24 AM

I can't wait to see how they will enforce this law especially with the child labor as a big factor with the Amish?

Bill from Middletown    
CT  |  February, 22, 2012 at 06:16 AM

You won't believe this, but my aunt and uncle used to live in Marysville! I spent much time there in my youth. Their name was Welch and my aunt ran a day care center.

Bill from Middletown    
CT  |  February, 22, 2012 at 06:16 AM

This is just another attempt to destroy family farms and create mega farms run by corporate interest. Make no mistake.

February, 22, 2012 at 06:41 AM

@Bill Attacks on farming are potentially more insidious than simply creating mega farms. Family farms are key to our liberty. Obama & his radical administration want as many people as possible dependent on the gov't. It's Saul Alinsky in action!

Elizabethtown, Ky  |  February, 22, 2012 at 06:32 AM

Another invasion on American citizens to help put them on the gov. wel-fare programs of one kind or another, by teaching our children, not to work

WA  |  February, 23, 2012 at 07:11 PM

At age 14 I was driving a one ton truck through the hay fields on my uncle's ranch for my cousins to load the bales. We all learned the value of hard work and pride in doing a job well. We knew what we were supposed to do, we knew how to do it safely and we did it. Parents and relatives know better what a child is capable of, the government has no business telling them how to raise their children.

Brenton Battles    
Grants Pass, OR  |  February, 22, 2012 at 09:40 AM

These rules are referred to five times as legislation. Although they're technically "rules," the fact is they really are legislation if for no other reason than the fact that they change basic policy which is strictly the domain of elected representatives. Real "rules" are supposed to clarify policy, not make it. That we have to appeal to real legislators to stop bureaucrats from creating laws which these rules really are is appalling. Worse yet, we sheep no longer know the difference between laws and rules.

SD  |  February, 22, 2012 at 06:07 PM

This is a very dangerous illegal legislative action (as in changing basic policy) which is ONLY a job for Congress, not bureaucrats overstepping their duties! Further, it erodes parental responsibility, which surely must delegated to grandparents and other family members at times, whether 'official' or not. EVERYONE who cherished family and agriculture MUST demand that our representatives stop this breach of legislative responsibility! We also need to share our ideas for responsible FAMILY restraints on which jobs children do at what age or level of responsibility. And NEVER fail to emphasize and PRACTICE safety in our work as we are the models for our children.

6D Series

John Deere offers four models in its economical 6D Series Tractor lineup: the 105 horsepower 6105D, 115 horsepower 6115D; 130 ... Read More

View all Products in this segment

View All Buyers Guides

Feedback Form
Leads to Insight