Proposed rules would restrict child labor on farms

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The Associated Press reports potential restrictions by the U.S. Labor Department have farmers worried about the future of agriculture.

Proposed restrictions would prohibit children under age 16 from using power equipment, working with livestock in certain circumstances, driving tractors or working at heights above six feet.

While statistics show the risks of farm labor, nearly 29 out of every 100,000 farm workers in the U.S. die on the job, according to the National Safety Council, farmers have seen life lessons and work ethic shaped through responsibilities given to youth on the farm.

The new laws won’t apply to direct offspring of farm owners, but if the operator doesn’t own the farm their children can’t complete tasks listed in the new laws. Nieces, nephews and neighborhood children will be restricted by the proposed laws.

Michael Hancock, the assistant administrator for policy at the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division, says the new laws won’t eliminate all jobs responsibilities for youth on the farm.

"There's any number of things kids can do on a farm that will be totally unaffected by these regulations," Hancock said. For instance, he said, they can still detassle corn, haul hay and feed cattle.

Farm organizations are concerned the laws will create a barrier for children, preventing them from gaining hands-on experience in agriculture.

Read Ag groups ask for changes to proposed child labor regulations by Rick Jordahl, Associate Editor, Pork Network. 

Click here for more information.

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Julie Smith    
Vermont  |  December, 07, 2011 at 12:44 PM

The really sobering statistics not presented in this article are that over 40% of youth worker deaths are attributed to agriculture; 60% of youth worker deaths under age 16 and almost 80% of youth worker deaths under age 10. By limiting exposure to the most dangerous jobs on farms, farmers will not be depriving youth of important life lessons. In fact, they may enable more youth to live out their potential.

Michigan  |  April, 12, 2012 at 09:53 PM

By limiting exposure to the most dangerous jobs on the farm, you're simply moving the potential accidents from the youth to farmers or workers in their 20s. And considering the lack of jobs out there for young people, the last thing they need is more government regulations taking away what few potential jobs are left available to them. Also, by presenting these statistics as a percentage as you have, you can wind up with skewed results. You said that almost 80% of youth worker deaths under the age of 10 are attributed to agriculture. Considering that there likely aren't many children under 10 working at any jobs, and the few that are working are likely near a farm, this would mean that something close to 100% of the youth workers under 10 are in agriculture. Stands to reason, then, that even a single death will make for a huge increase in the percentage because there aren't any deaths in other types of jobs to offset it statistically. Yes, farming has dangers associated with it, but we don't need the government to stick its nose into things more than it already has. We have enough generations of weak-bodied and weak-minded individuals in our society. We don't need to be taking away more opportunities from those who don't fall into those categories.


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