WASHINGTON, March 22, 20120- Senators John Thune, R-S.D., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., introduced the “Preserving America’s Family Farm Act” this week to prevent the Department of Labor (DOL) from enacting its proposed restrictions on youth farm workers.
“The Department of Labor has proposed 85 pages of unreasonable and overreaching rules that would unnecessarily restrict the participation of young people in agriculture related activities,” Thune said. “Family farms and farming communities teach young people responsible work ethics and these proposed rules would change that by severely limiting the commonplace activities in which young people can learn about agriculture.”
Last year, DOL Secretary Hilda Solis proposed rules that would prohibit youth under the age of 18 from being near certain age animals without adult supervision, participating in livestock practices such as vaccinating and hoof trimming, and handling most animals more than six months old.
Agriculture groups claim the rules would severely limit participation in 4-H and FFA activities and restrict their youth farm safety classes. Other prohibitions for youth in the rule include operating farm machinery over 20 PTO horsepower; completing tasks at elevations over six feet high; and working at stockyards and grain and feed facilities.
The Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the fatality rate for agricultural workers who are 15 to 17 years of age is 4.4 times greater than the risk for the average worker in that age range, with the most common cause of deaths among young workers being farm machinery. Representatives from the Labor Department argue that the rules are a long overdue attempt to modernize rules last updated in the 1970’s. When the new regulations were first proposed last fall, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis described children working in agriculture as “some of the most vulnerable workers in America.”
After the initial outcry from the agriculture community, the DOL revised the “parental exemption” portion of the rule, clarifying that children of farm operators, including those involved in various partnerships and other business models, would be exempt from the regulations. However, Thune and the 37 cosponsors of the legislation believe the entire rule should be rejected.
“This is another example of the Obama administration initiating unsolicited regulations that would prohibit normal practices that have been carried out in rural areas for generations—not to mention limiting a desperately needed workforce to replace the current generation of farmers whose average age is nearing 60 years old,” Thune said.
In addition to Thune and Moran, the bipartisan bill has 36 cosponsors in the Senate, including: Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R- Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Daniel Coats (R-Ind.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), David Vitter (R-La.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)
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