Comment Period on Ag Labor Regulations Extended

Senators are successful in giving farmers more time to voice their thoughts on proposed rule.

Published on: Nov 1, 2011

Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan., has concerns with the changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act proposed by the Department of Labor.

"With no direction from Congress the Department of Labor is proposing one more set of regulations that damage the viability of family farms and intrude upon the history and practices of rural America," Moran said. "The Department of Labor proposes to restrict the ability of youth to work on any farm not directly owned by their parents. The rule as currently written will have far reaching effects on family farming operations as well as vocational education programs like 4-H and FFA. Many of my Senate colleagues have joined me to ask the Secretary of Labor to pause, use some common sense and give farmers and ranchers the opportunity to provide their input before this regulation takes effect."

In a letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis the Senators noted that the current comment period falls during fall harvest, the busiest time of year for ag producers. The Senators believe farmers and ranchers were given inadequate notice and insufficient time to comment on this rule, which could fundamentally disrupt ag practices across the country.

In response to this letter and other requests to extend the period for filing public comments from members of Congress and various agricultural business organizations, the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division has announced a 30-day extension of the comment period for its proposed rule to revise regulations addressing child labor in agricultural and nonagricultural employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The comment period now ends Dec. 1.

The proposed rules would prohibit farm workers under the age of 16 from working in cultivation and harvesting certain crops. The rules also would prohibit youth, both ag and non ag, from using electronic, including communications, equipment while operating powered equipment, and the rule also prohibits young workers from operating almost all power equipment. 

Also, minors under the age of 18 would be barred from working in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials, with specific prohibitions on country elevators, grain bins, feedlots, stockyards and livestock auctions. The rules would also prohibit or limit youth from engaging, or assisting, in animal husbandry practices.