The proposed rule form the Department of Labor that would have severely limited what children under the age of 18 could do on their own family's farm and nearly destroyed the FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience program and its related Proficiency award series, has been pulled for now.
Bill Field, Purdue University Extension farm safety specialist, says that after 10,000 negative comments during the comment period that ended December 1, 2011, the Department of Labor decided to scrap the proposal. One of the letters contained 9,000 signatures, and was put together by a state organization.
It's far from a dead issue, however, Field says. He remains in contact with the people who would make the rules. And he cautions that there are people who want this rule passed and who believe it is the right thing to do. In fact, he suggests that the current administration believed they were doing a good thing for rural America in protecting youth in workplaces.
One sticking point seems to have been resolved, he notes. He believes rulemakers now understand that for exemptions for children to work on their own farms to be effective, the rule must be worded differently. Otherwise children on family farms which are incorporated would still be excluded.
However, Field is uncertain if anyone in the rulemaking business truly understands yet the impact prohibiting students from working not only on farms but on 10 other specific types of ag businesses, would have on vocational agriculture training programs, and FFA awards programs that recognize those that excel in completing their programs. The SAE program is a part of what makes FFA an intra-curricular activity. Apparently, some of the lawmakers inside the Beltway who would develop rules still don't believe that portion of the law would affect very many kids.
Many people were caught off guard until the comment period was nearly over last time, Field says. He cautions people to stay alert, especially those interested in protecting the ability of ag teachers to utilize supervised ag experience programs in their programs. Field believes another proposal will come down the pike, likely yet this year. However, since it will be a new proposal, not just a revision of the original proposal, now scrapped, the new proposal will have a mandatory comment period. That's the time to make sure your opinions and facts are registered with the Department of Labor, he concludes.