“Here’s what the government thinks is common sense,” says Craig Anderson, Agriculture Labor and Safety Services division manager at the Michigan Farm Bureau. “Eliminate work to protect workers. If you don’t work, you can’t be hurt on the job. Who can argue with that?”
According to Anderson, who was quoted in Michigan Farm News, after examining the DOL’s proposed rules he found a lot for farmers not to like.
“If you thought the new non-agriculture rules prohibiting virtually all employment of youth under 16 were overzealous, the details in this document are downright oppressive,” Anderson says. “The DOL assumes that youth under age 16 lack the ‘cognitive ability’ to herd animals on horseback, use battery-powered drills, put hay bales on a bale elevator or use any equipment except if powered by hand or foot.”
He believes the new rules would further hurt the structure of family farms in America.
"In agriculture it is common for farms to be operated by two, three or even five generations of family members," Anderson said. "The grandparents own the land, their children are buying into the farm and may have some land on their own, and the grandchildren are working to understand what it takes to be a farmer. If the parents and grandparents operate the farm, the grandchildren under 16 would be prohibited from working on the operation."
"Don't let the spin fool you," Anderson says. "They'll say there's nothing for farm families to worry about because there is an exemption for children working on their parents' farm. The DOL proposal says it will maintain the family exemption, but later limits the exemption for any business or multi-generation farm."
Of particular interest to livestock operations are the restrictions for animal handling. The document would seem to eliminate working with 4-H and FFA animals, or proper care and well-being of animals. DOL says youth would be “prohibited from engaging, or assisting in…treating sick or injured animals.”
Youth also would not be allowed, under the proposal, to cut and separate cattle from a herd if riding a horse. "No youth development data exists to suggest youth younger than 16 years have the cognitive ability to handle this responsibility," the proposal suggests.
Such restrictions and inconsistencies are why Anderson and other Michigan Farm Bureau officials are pleading with farmers to submit comments to the DOL before the Nov. 1 comment period expires. Submit comments here.