Congressman Tom Latham (R-Iowa) introduced bipartisan legislation in early March in the U.S. Congress that will block Washington’s attack on America’s long-standing family farm tradition. Latham’s bill blocks recent attempts by the Department of Labor, with moral support from the Department of Agriculture, to increase federal regulatory involvement into family farms that risk outlawing farm youth from working on their family owned farms. “The family farm is one of Iowa’s most cherished traditions and a cornerstone of our state and nation’s economy and cultural history,” Congressman Latham said.

“The armies of federal bureaucrats who spend day after day drawing up new regulations have now set their sights on the institution of the family farm. It is a misguided idea that threatens the ability of America’s youth to contribute to farms owned by their own families. My legislation blocks Washington’s regulation monster from yet another intrusion into the operations of our family farms.”

The legislation, the Preserving America’s Family Farms Act (H.R.4157), bars the U.S. Department of Labor from implementing any regulation that would prohibit farm youth from working on farms owned by their families by restricting finalization of the rule the department proposed in September of 2011.

Historically, family farms have been exempted from child labor rules, but concerns have arisen that a proposal from the Department of Labor could jeopardize that exclusion for operations that are partly owned by extended family members such as grandparents, aunts or uncles. Such practices occur often in modern agriculture as families employ a variety of legal structures to remain financially viable.

The Department of Labor’s proposed regulation also would eliminate a pair of certification programs that allow student learners to perform certain kinds of farm work, such as the operation of tractors. The proposed elimination of the certification programs has drawn opposition from farm youth groups like FFA and 4-H.


Congressman Latham introduced the legislation with Rep. Dan Boren (D-Oklahoma), who joined Congressman Latham to speak out against the misguided regulation in December.

“While I understand the concern for safety of young people on farms, the government should be careful to not adversely impact these small businesses. I look forward to working with my colleague Congressman Latham to advance this bill,” Congressman Boren said.

At press time, the legislation has received 39 co-sponsors. An identical bill (S.2221) was introduced in the Senate in March by Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota). The Senate bill has 44 co-sponsors. PD

Reader comments

I believe a child should be allowed to work on a dairy farm at any age, provided:

  • there is always someone present to maintain that child’s safety
  • the child is not engaged in activities that pose a direct health risk
  • the child is responsible enough to know the certain dangers on the farm

Provided the child is always under supervision, I see helping out on a farm as a great way to build character, responsibility and a good work ethic. As long as farm work doesn’t interfere with schoolwork, I say go for it.
Online Reader Comment

I am in 100 percent in agreement with Amanda. I was working at 12 years old, and now I am not afraid of working hard. My husband is a dairy farmer with our two growing sons – we are all working hard! They also are starting to work at a young age.
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