Responding to the public outcry, the Obama Labor Department withdrew its proposed farm child labor regulations last Thursday.
"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," stated the Department of Labor's press release issued on Thursday night. "To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration."
Last fall, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis first proposed regulations designed to safeguard children ages 18 or younger who work on farms.
The DOL's regulations outlined protocol which limited youth from participating in certain animal practices, exposure to certain farm situations and prohibited use of machinery which could cause death or
The proposed regulations were met with opposition from ag sectors because the rules would have limited the involvement of youth in the operations of family farms in addition to prohibiting youth from participating in agricultural programs.
Specifically, the regulations would have put a limit on training offered by cooperative extension services and vocational training programs such as 4-H and FFA.
To fill the education void, a 90 hour training course overseen by the Department of Labor was proposed.
But as the Labor Department continued to push forward with the new regulations this spring, it was met with resistance by organizations such as the American Farm Bureau Federation and from lawmakers with rural constituencies.
U.S. Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) said the regulations were not drawn up by people familiar with the everyday operation of the family farm.
Lathan co-sponsored House legislation with Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) to counter the government's rules.
"We are very pleased today," said Rep. Latham on Friday from Washington, D.C.
Congressman Latham said that the Labor Department's regulations were "ill-thought out" and "didn't have anything to do with reality."
The Labor Department's regulations would have restricted a child from working in any agricultural setting which was not under immediate family supervision, said Latham.
The rules would have destroyed the family farm as many of the operations of today are multi-generational with grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and other extended family members working in partnerships, he said.
It is estimated that family farms, family partnerships or family corporations represent 98 percent of the approximately two million farms in the US.
The rules would have also affected the ability of growers to hire youth as laborers in summer jobs such as detassling, said Latham.
The Labor Department's rules restricted children under the age of 16 from operating power-driven equipment and prohibited the use of electrical devices such as cell phones while operating machinery.
The regulations also restricted youth age 16 and younger from working higher than six feet off the ground.
Youth under age 16 were prohibited from working in any activity which caused pain to an animal such as vaccination, castration or branding.
Farm youth under the age of 18, would have been restricted from working in jobs of storing, transporting or marketing crops associated with grain bins, silos or grain elevators. That age group would also be prohibited from working around manure pits as well as in feed lots, stockyards or livestock exchanges.
Many farm groups felt the government overstepped its authority by trying to regulate a sector of agriculture that already uses safety practices to safeguard their own family members.
"Farmers and ranchers are more interested than anyone else in assuring the safety of farming operations," said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. "We have no desire at all to have any young teenagers working in jobs that are inappropriate or entail too much risk."
The Labor Department's proposed regulations were supported by the Child Labor Coalition and 28 organizations, including labor unions, labor rights educators and child advocacy groups.
Earlier this year when Rep. Rehberg chaired the hearing by the U.S. House Labor, Health, Human Services and Education Appropriations sub-committee, he addressed the importance of on-the-job-training for farm youth.
"Putting kids in a bubble may be safe as long as they're in the bubble, but heaven help them if they've not properly trained when they leave the bubble," Rehberg said.
Despite the administration's vow to drop the matter, Republican lawmakers will continue to pursue its legislation in Congress, said Latham.
While the House works towards passage of the bill, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has introduced the bill in the Senate, Latham said.
"We will continue to pursue this legislation," vowed Latham, who cited the possibility of President Obama's re-election. Latham noted the president's suggestion that in a second term, he would rule without
"We will get a vote on the floor either as a stand-alone provision or with a funding bill," said Latham. "We want to make sure it doesn't happen again in the future."
Contact Teresa Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 832-4350.