On Sep. 2, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would make revisions to existing regulations pertaining to the employment of youth on farming and ranching operations. Five months later, the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade met for a hearing titled “The Future of the Family Farm: The Effect of Proposed DOL Regulations on Small Business Producers.” The hearing was held to examine these rules so that members may better understand their potential effect on small business farm operations as well as youths working in or training for occupations in agriculture.

Lee karen
Managing Editor / Progressive Dairy

Prior to the hearing, the Department of Labor decided to re-propose the “parental exemption” portion of the rule. However, great concern remains about other parts of the rule pertaining to youth access to safety training programs and on-farm education and employment opportunities.

The rule, as proposed, not only upends long-standing and proven programs that provide important safety training and instruction to youth, it could also prohibit youth from working on their own family farms simply because of the way the farm’s business is structured.

Here are excerpts of testimony presented during and after the hearing:

“Once the revisions to the child labor regulations in nonagricultural employment were completed [a process that began in May 2010], the department then turned to modernizing the regulations governing employment in agriculture, targeting the work that is most likely to result in a child’s death or serious injury.


"The current federal agricultural child labor rules were issued over 40 years ago and have never been updated or revised.

“The proposed rule only limits children who are age 15 and younger and serving as employees on a farm not owned or operated by their parent (or person standing in the place of the parent) from performing the most hazardous jobs. The department’s proposed rule also only applies to situations where there is an employment relationship.

"In other words, a child of any age could, for example, assist a neighbor to round up loose cattle that have broken out of their fencing because that would not establish an employer/employee relationship.

"Nor would the regulation apply to situations where a child is raising a pig as part of her 4-H project, or taking the pig she has raised to sell at a county fair or market on her own behalf.”
Nancy J. Leppink
Deputy administrator Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor
Washington, D.C.

“The federal government’s own statistics and analysis show that between 1998-2009 nonfatal farm-related accidents involving youth have declined by more than 50 percent, which begs the question about what is the problem that the Obama administration is trying to solve …

"Our witnesses were loud and clear – simply tweaking this rule is not the answer. It should be thrown out in its entirety.”
Subcommittee Chairman Scott Tipton

“DOL clearly does not understand the farming community, does not understand how farms are organized, how farm families help one another, does not appreciate or grasp what it is like to live in rural America, nor does the department seem to have much respect for the ability of farmers and ranchers to look out for the well-being of their children.”
Chris Chinn
Owner of Chinn Hog Farm
Clarence, Missouri