UPDATED: Dozens of agriculture groups are pressing the Department of Labor for changes to what they believe are overreaching proposals to on-farm child labor regulations. The National Pork Producers Council, National Farmers Union, American Sheep Industry Association and National Turkey Federation last week submitted comments on the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed on-farm child labor regulations.

The American Farm Bureau Federation last week also filed comments on behalf of more than 70 agricultural organizations in response to a proposal by the Labor Department that would limit youth employment opportunities on farms and ranches. AFBF also filed separate comments on its own behalf supplementing its views on the DOL proposal. Read more.

The coalition comments focused on what Farm Bureau and other agriculture organizations see as over-reaching regulatory efforts by DOL. Most prominent is the proposal’s potential impact on family farms. The coalition comments urged the department “to maintain the integrity of the family farm exemption approved by Congress.”

“Farmers and ranchers are more interested than anyone else in assuring the safety of farming operations,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We have no desire at all to have young teenagers working in jobs that are inappropriate or entail too much risk.”

According to the groups’ comments, the proposed rules indicate that DOL lacks a full understanding of modern farm practices and production. The groups have requested modifications to the proposed rules.

Many youth, for example, raise and tend livestock as a part of 4-H, FFA and other leadership programs, but youth under 18 would be prohibited from being near certain animals without adult supervision under the proposed regulations.

The rules also would prohibit youth from “operating or assisting to operate” farm machinery over 20 PTO horsepower.  Additionally, tasks involving work at elevations over six feet and near manure storage areas would be prohibited.

The organizations are strongly urging DOL to make considerable changes before the rule is finalized.

National Farmers Union (NFU) also submitted comments to DOL regarding the proposed regulations. “NFU policy supports the intent of the new regulations to make workplaces safer for young people, but urges caution in implementing regulations that may discourage children from learning about agriculture,” according to a NFU press release.

“Farm safety is an issue of the utmost importance to NFU, and I commend the department on its efforts to make workplaces safer for young workers,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. NFU also urges the DOL to modify certain rules that may be overreaching.

“There are some provisions included in the rule that need modification,” said Johnson. “For example, proposed restrictions on youth working in agriculture-related industries and the removal of student-learner exemptions for certain agricultural tasks may serve to discourage youth from learning about or pursuing a career in agriculture or related trades when we desperately need to support the next generation of farmers and agribusiness professionals.”

“Participation in FFA, 4-H and vocational agriculture classes allows youth to learn how to safely perform agricultural tasks under close professional guidance,” Johnson said.

Read more about the proposed regulations.

Source: NPPC, NFU