The Department of Labor is expected to publish proposed child labor regulations Sept. 2 that seek to prohibit farm workers under 16 from operating almost all power driven equipment and set other new rules prohibiting young workers from contact with pesticides, timber operations and storage bins.

The regulations would only apply to hired farm workers and not change the child labor parental exemption, which allows children freedom to work on farms owned or operated by their parents. The proposed regulations will have a 60-day comment period.

“There are not as many changes as a lot of people feared,” said Frank Gasperini, executive vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Council of Agricultural Employers,

Gasperini said the new regulations are expected to have a minor effect on larger producers, mainly related to record keeping.

“I think the impact is likely to be more important to farm worker families and rural families more than it is to farmers,” he said. “Teenagers work on farms but they are not the bulk of farm workers.”

In a pre-release version of the rule, the Department of Labor said that the proposal would implement specific recommendations made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and increase parity between the agricultural and non-agricultural child labor provisions.

Gasperini said the regulations are likely to have the most effect on very small farms.

“I think the big concern to me is whether this might hinder or future by making it so difficult for teens to work on farms that we further reduce people going into agriculture.”

Gasperini said Department of Labor officials told members of Congress that the regulations will:

  • Strengthen current child labor regulations prohibiting agricultural work with animals and in pesticide handling, timber operations, manure pits and storage bins.
  • Prohibit youth in both agricultural and non agricultural employment from using electronic, including communication, devices while operating power-driven equipment.
  • Prohibit farm workers under 16 from operating almost all power-driven equipment. A similar prohibition has existed as part of the non agricultural child labor provisions for more than 50 years.