The Department of Labor announced on Thursday that it would withdraw its proposed rule to apply child labor laws to children working on family farms and ranches.
“The decision to withdraw this rule – including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption’ – was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration,” said the Department’s statement released today.
Members of Congress from rural districts, farm organizations, and farm families themselves heavily protested the proposed rule which would have banned children under the age of 18 from engaging in work on farms which involves “storing, marketing, and transporting of farm product raw materials.”
The regulations were first proposed last August by Labor Department Secretary Hilda Solis, under the umbrella of “improving safety of young workers employed in agriculture and related fields.” Among other types of farm and ranch work, the rules would have prohibited children under the age of 16 from participating in the cultivation, harvesting, and curing of tobacco, and from operating almost all power-driven equipment on family-owned farms.
The new rules would have revoked the government’s approval of safety training classes sponsored by independent organizations like 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA), and replaced them with a 90-hour federal government training program.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) (R-South Dakota) told Fox News’ Greta van Susteren on Wednesday that the new regulations- 85 pages of them- were “very prescriptive and very detailed” and represented ” a very far-reaching proposal that will have tremendous implications for American agriculture.” For example, operating battery-powered screwdrivers and working on a tractor over six feet tall, with animals older than six months, or near a grain elevator or stockyard would all have been prohibited for young people under the new rules. Some of the new regulations appeared vague, such as one which stipulated that children not be permitted to have jobs that “inflict pain on an animal,” a category that could possibly have included placing a halter on a steer during a 4-H show.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) (R-Kansas), present at a hearing last month about the new regulations, accused Secretary Solis of driving a wedge between rural parents and their children. “In my view,” he said, “if the federal government can regulate the kind of relationship between parents and their children on their own family’s farm, there is almost nothing off-limits in which we see the federal government intruding in a way of life.”
According to Sen. Thune, it was unclear what provoked the Department of Labor to overreach into the private lives of farm and ranch families. He indicated that no one from the farm organizations was consulted about the new regulations. Suggesting that there are “way too many bureaucrats in Washington with too much time on their hands who think that they know what is best for other people in this country,” Sen. Thune said, “farming and ranching are inherently family enterprises. It’s been that way for generations, and you want young people to grow up learning the skill sets that are necessary to take that farm or ranch operation over.”
Has common sense prevailed over the Obama administration’s usual “government knows best” method of operations? Likely, it’s more election-year fear.