Perhaps not even proposed air quality standards for agriculture or ideas about limiting dust in agriculture brought forth so much emotion and concern from the agricultural community as the current proposal to overhaul labor laws that affect what children in agriculture, or rural children who want to work in agriculture, could or couldn't do until they reach either 16 or 18 years of age, depending upon the activity.
The official comment period on the proposed rule is over. The Department of Labor will review the comments, and announce a decision on whether they're implementing the rule as originally proposed, or modifying it based upon some of the comments and evidence they received during the comment period.
Here are excerpts from an official letter sent to Labor by Bill Field and others. Field is the Purdue University farm safety specialist. Earlier, he documented how the proposed rule changes are not documented by studies. He also noted that only a small percentage of youth in the whole gamut of rural youth from age one to 16 would be affected. He used the point to argue the case that the chances the new rule will significantly reduce fatalities and injuries to the target group who could no longer work in agriculture until they reached a certain age are slim, to say the least.
Here are more comments from the document he filed on behalf of agriculture.
"The potential negative effects of the proposed rule changes for both for youth who seek employment in agriculture, as well as their potential employers, would have long-term and lasting consequences for ag production and the economic viability of rural communities in the U.S.
"The impacts and related consequences are especially noticeable when the proposed changes are examined from an ag producer's vantage point with the knowledge, understanding and wisdom that has been gathered by the experiences gained as a result of being nurtured and growing up in a production ag setting.
"The potential consequences associated with adoption of these proposed changes will put an unnecessary and increasingly heavy burden on youth who are seeking experience and employment opportunities, as well as producers who are seeking qualified employees."
Field was joined in signing the letter submitted to labor by Roger Tormoehlen, Head of the Youth Development Depart at Purdue, Shannon Snyder, a farmer and ag instructor, and Brian French, an associate professor at Washington State University.