The Department of Labor has proposed a rewrite of its child labor protection regulations in a move it says will equalize and strengthen the safety requirements for young workers employed in agriculture and related fields. The Labor Department's comment deadline is Nov. 1, but farm organizations plan to submit a proposal for a 60-day extension in light of the arduous details outlined in the proposal.
Under the proposed rules, farm workers under the age of 16 would be prohibited from working in cultivation and harvesting certain crops. The rules also would prohibit youth ag and non-ag workers from using electronic, including communications, equipment while operating powered equipment, and the rule also prohibits young workers from operating almost all power equipment. 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.
Several agricultural organizations have identified many areas of concern raised by the proposed rule. Concerns range from the implications of multiple family members working for a family farm organized as a LLC, additional restrictions placed on young people working with and around agricultural equipment, to the future of agricultural education opportunities for youths and teens.
The rule holds that youth under 16 years old "lack the cognitive ability" to herd animals on horseback, specifically outlining no cutting or separating cattle. Further, the proposed rule would prohibit youth from "engaging, or assisting, in animal husbandry practices." These activities outlined include branding, breeding, dehorning, vaccinating, castrating, and treating sick or injured animals. DOL says there is an exception for youth working on their parents' farm, but does not extend that exception for any broader family partnership.
The National Sorghum Producers says it is up to all of us to keep youth education about work ethic and generational farm and ranch families in rural America.