The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division plans to re-propose the "parental exemption" portion of its regulation on child labor in agriculture.

The decision to re-propose is in part a response to requests from the public and members of Congress that the agency allow an opportunity for more input on this aspect of the rule, according to Department of Labor official at a press conference on Wednesday.

The parental exemption allows children of any age who are employed by their parent, or a person standing in the place of a parent, to perform any job on a farm owned or operated by their parent or such person standing in the place of a parent.

Proposed child labor regulations have raised concern in the agricultural community. Until now, it has been assumed that children can continue to perform tasks if working for their parents. See “Vilsack clarifies DOL child labor proposal.” But the complex nature of farm corporations or partnerships has raised questions about some of these relationships.

The portion of the proposed rule in question would have placed restrictions on the many family farms that have established their operations as a corporation or a partnership. 

Until the revised exemption is final, the Wage and Hour Division will apply the parental exemption to situations in which the parent or person standing in the place of a parent is a part owner of the farm, a partner in a partnership or an officer of a corporation that owns the farm if the ownership interest in the partnership or corporation is substantial.

"I want to applaud  Secretary (of Labor Hilda) Solis and the Department of Labor for their decision to re-propose this portion of the rule to ensure kids across the nation have the opportunity to learn the value and reward of good old-fashioned farm work, while still providing protection to children from the most dangerous aspects of farming," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has called on the Labor Department to withdraw the entire rule to protect the ability of youth to work on the family farm.

“While I am pleased the Department of Labor has listened to common sense straight from America’s farmers and ranchers, this proposed regulation would threaten the most fundamental tradition in agriculture — working on the family farm,” Roberts said, “I encourage them to scrap the whole thing and start over,” he said.

“This proposed rule is another unfortunate example of the kinds of burdensome and stupid regulations pouring out of this Administration,” Roberts said. “I encourage them to reconsider the entire rule.”

The re-proposal process will seek comments and inputs as to how the department can comply with statutory requirements to protect children, while respecting rural traditions, according to the Labor Department. The re-proposed portion of the rule is expected to be published for public comment by early summer.

The department will continue to review the comments received regarding the remaining portions of the proposed rule for inclusion in a final rule.