Colorado family farmers are worried about a proposal by the U.S. Department of Labor to change child labor laws, saying they could cripple family farms and hurt programs like the Future Farmers of America and 4-H Club. One rule would allow children under age 15 to only work on their parents' farm. Another would keep children under age 16 from driving most power equipment.

Non-agriculture workers under 18 would be banned from grain elevators, silos, livestock exchanges and auctions. The new rules also would stop children younger than 15 from working near sexually mature livestock, including bulls and boars or nursing cows and sows.

Colorado Farm Bureau spokesman Shawn Martini tells The Denver Post ( agriculture groups hope to persuade the Labor Department to amend its proposals.

"In D.C., they really don't understand they are trying to stop what are common practices out here," Martini said.

So far, the farmers have persuaded the department to delay action until Dec. 1 so they could get more input.


Farm advocates say the intent of the revisions is to increase safety standards for children because farming and ranching are among the most dangerous occupations.

Authorities said they want to prevent accidents like the one that killed 17-year-old Cody Rigsby, who died in 2009 while working at the company's grain elevator in Haswell. Prosecutors say he suffocated after entering a grain bin while grain was flowing from it.

Tempel Grain Elevators pleaded guilty to violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules. A federal magistrate judge ordered the company to pay $50,000 in fines and penalties to OSHA and $500,000 to Rigsby's family.

The new rules could bar those under 15 from raising animals as part of a 4-H project or learning the newest techniques in animal husbandry, Cattlemen's Association vice president Terry Fankhauser said. PD

AP newswire report; information from The Denver Post,