Child safety while handling farm equipment is the main argument from supporters of the proposal. However, the article reports concerns raised by a representative of National Future Farmers of America that “[t]he proposed rules would severely limit or eliminate opportunities to participate in the experiential learning aspects of our program.” Currently, students in vocational training are exempt from labor standards, but the proposed rules would limit children less than 16 years of age.
The article also reported that “While I am pleased by the DOL’s announcement . . . that it was going to resubmit the parental exemption portion of the NPRM, other provisions of this rule will make it difficult, if not impossible, for youths interested in agriculture to access comprehensive on-farm education and employment opportunities,” said Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade Chairman Scott Tipton (R-Colo.). “Farming is a profession learned by doing and there is no substitute for actual on-farm or ranch experience.”
According to the Agri-Pulse article, [r]epresentatives from the Labor Department argue that the rules are a long overdue attempt to modernize rules last updated in the 1970’s. When the new regulations were first proposed last fall, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis described children working in agriculture as “some of the most vulnerable workers in America.”
For more information about federal and state laws, regulations, and policy about agricultural labor, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center Agricultural Labor Reading Room. Also, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center online, free-of-charge database of agricultural and food Congressional Research Service Reports, specifically including the Farm Labor reports.