The Department of Labor is dropping the idea of giving farmers new rules to follow on how to use child labor.
With a 2011 proposed rule from the agency attracting more than 10,000 public comments, the move by the federal government to add new rules to regulate use of youth labor on U.S. farms was strongly opposed by U.S. agriculture groups.
The proposed regulations for youth under 16 would have only affected hired farmworkers and did not seek to end the child labor parental exemption involving children working on farms owned or operated by their parents. Even so, the regulation was loudly opposed and cited as an example of intrusive government.
In a statement that described why the proposed rule was withdrawn, the Department of Labor said admitted widespread opposition was a primary reason the proposed rule was dropped.
“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,” the agency said in a statement. “To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.”
The agency said it will with farm groups — 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.
“Everyone in the agriculture community will be pleased they did the right thing by withdrawing the rule but I think we are going to see a redoubled effort with respect to enforcement of current laws,” said Craig Regelbrugge, vice president for government relations and research for the American Nursery and Landscape Association and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Immigration Reform,
Bob Stallman, president of the Washington, D.C.-based American Farm Bureau Federation, called the Department of Labor decision a victory for farm families in a statement from the group.
“Farm Bureau will continue working to ensure that the parental exemptions that remain important to agriculture will be protected, and we will continue our work to help educate families about the importance of farm safety,” Stallman said.