The U.S. Department of Labor is going back to the drawing board on its controversial farm labor rule that would have prevented many young people from working on family farms. The department is stopping its plans to implement the new rules and has agreed to open a new dialogue with family farmers on the issue.
Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman, Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., agrees that there should be safeguards to protect children from dangerous situations, but there needs to be an understanding that many children in rural communities learn about safety by helping their family on the farm.
According to the DOL, a new "parental exemption" rule is expected to be proposed this summer. The exemption allows children of any age who are employed by their parent, or a person standing in the place of a parent, to perform any job on a farm owned or operated by their parent or such person standing in the place of a parent.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says that farming is a lifestyle that is passed down from generation to generation, so it is critical that farmers are able to teach their children how to perform the work safely and responsibly. Johnson believes that current rules and regulations allow adequate flexibility for parents to teach their children about agriculture while still ensuring that young workers are safe.
American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman says that the decision by the Labor Department to re-propose the "parental exemption" in the child labor rule is a positive step, but much more work is needed. Farm Bureau says any final regulation must make sense, not infringe on the traditional rights of family farms and not unnecessarily restrict the ability of young people to work in agriculture. Stallman says that laws and regulations need to be sensible and within reason.