DOL Pulls Proposed New Rule on Children Working on Farms

In a stunning turnaround, the U.S. Department of Labor today withdrew a proposed new rule affecting children under age 16 who work in agricultural vocations.

The regulations haven’t been updated since the 1970s.

The proposed rule would have:

  • strengthened current child labor prohibitions regarding agricultural work with animals  in timber operations, manure pits, storage bins and pesticide handling.
  • prohibited hired farm workers under the age of 16 from employment in the cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco.
  • prohibited youth in both agricultural and nonagricultural employment from using electronic devices, including communication devices, while operating power-driven equipment.
  • prohibited hired farm workers under the age of 16 from operating almost all power-driven equipment. A similar prohibition has existed as part of the nonagricultural child labor provisions for more than 50 years. A limited exemption would permit some student-learners to operate certain farm implements and tractors (when equipped with proper rollover protection structures and seat belts) under specified conditions.
  • prevented children under 18 years of age from being employed in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm-product raw materials. Prohibited places of employment would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.

A “parental exemption” would have allowed 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.

“The decision to withdraw this rule – including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption’ – was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms.  To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration,” the DOL statement said.

DOL continued: “Instead, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with rural stakeholders – such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H – to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices.”

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