How Would New Child Labor Laws On Farms Be Enforced?

Experts expect Department of Labor Would Put Teeth in New Rules.

Published on: Nov 30, 2011

If you've been following the dialogue about the new proposed regulations that the U.S. Department of Labor wants to impose on youth potentially working on farms or in so-called hazardous ag settings, you know that if the proposal becomes a final rule, children under the age of 18 would be severely limited as to what they could do as a farm employee. For some activities it's 16, but to drive a tractor, a young person would now need to be 18.

You've probably also figured out that the exemptions for your own children could be wiped out if you farm in a family corporation, or if you farm with a brother or your father, and they take care of the grain and you don't. In that case, notes Megan Ritter, national policy specialist with Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc., the young person might still not be able to dive a tractor on the farm until they're 18 even if it's your own farm!

If you've followed the dialogue, you've probably already concluded by now that to most farm families, these proposed rules may fall somewhere between restrictive and ridiculous. You're also likely aware that unless big brother is going to watch your farm 24 hours a day, enforcing these regulations could be next to impossible. If that attitude is preventing you from commenting on the law, with the comment period ending tomorrow, Ritter says you need to rethink the situation. She urges you to submit comments if you find the current proposal unsuitable, rather than just assuming it will go away or not be enforced.

"If this is like other situations, the Department of Labor will probably do spot checks," Ritter says. That's assuming that the final rules are in place. Since the comment period ends tomorrow, the final rule, even if it isn't changed from the current working, likely wouldn't become official and enforceable until sometime next year,

"We would expect the Department of Labor to do some surveillance on this," Ritter notes. If they find someone in violation, past history would indicate they would probably push for fines on that individual to prove their point and hopefully convince other people to comply.

You can comment if you do it today by visiting:  regulations.gov. For more information on the law and help in making sure your comment is filed correctly, visit: www.infarmbureau.org.