The Department of Labor said Wednesday it will re-propose part of a draft regulation related to minors working on the farm, seeking additional comments and modifications to “ensure protection of both children and rural values.”
In a release, DOL said a re-proposed portion of the rule covering the “parental exemption” will be available for comment in the summer. The parental exemption allows 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 by the parent or the person in place of the parent.
The Department said its decision came partly because of feedback from the public and Members of Congress following the publication of a proposed rule on child labor, issued in September.
The fall proposal was intended to make farm work safer for children, but largely overlooked the fact that most modern farms are enterprises encompassing extended families, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and long-time, but unrelated, farm workers. Farm groups, including NAWG, believed it would have had sweeping impact on farm operations, rural economies and valuable educational opportunities for children in rural communities participating in 4-H and FFA programs.
DOL said the re-proposal “will seek comments and inputs as to how the department can comply with statutory requirements to protect children, while respecting rural traditions.”
Until the rule under consideration is final, DOL also said it will interpret the parental exemption as it has in recent years.
In a statement, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack applauded the Department for listening to farmers and ranchers and said the additional commenting period represents “a common-sense approach to strengthen our agricultural economy while keeping farm kids safe.”
More on the re-proposal process is at http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/whd/WHD20120203.htm.
An agriculture industry letter outlining many of the concerns expressed in recent months by farmers and ranchers is at http://www.wheatworld.org/issues/othercorrespondence/.