Proposed Changes To Child Labor Laws Withdrawn, Should Relieve Farmers

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UPDATE: Thursday, April 26, 2012

As KAKE News aired a story regarding proposed changes to child labor laws, the Department of Labor issued a statement withdrawing those changes.

The Labor Departments said that safety issues are the reason for the changes. Farmers said it was another case of the government reaching where is didn’t belong.

The proposed regulation changes by the Department of Labor could have prevented farmers from hiring some of their own family members from working on the farm.

The U.S. Department of Labor says, "The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations. The Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations…As a result, the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations.”

Instead, the Labor Department and the Department of Agriculture plans to work with rural stakeholders to develop programs to reduce accidents and promote safe working practices for young workers.

Kansas Senator Jerry Moran says, "“For generations, the contributions of young people have helped family farm and ranch operations survive and prosper. If this proposal had gone into effect, not only would the shrinking rural workforce have been further reduced, and our nation’s youth deprived of valuable career training opportunities, but a way of life would have begun to disappear. This is a tremendous victory for farmers and ranchers across the country.”

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kansas farm families are worried about some possible changes expected soon.

The Department of Labor is reviewing some work rules for kids – rules that farmers worry will have a negative impact on their way of life.

The Labor Departments says safety issues are the reason for the changes. Farmers say it’s another case of the government reaching where is doesn’t belong.

Some Kansas farmers are concerned the proposed regulation changes by the Department of Labor might prevent them from hiring some of their own family members from working out here on the farm.

Garden Plain farmer Mike Rausch says proposed new regulations to federal child labor laws will severely affect how he managed his operation.

"Since my kids are grown up and moved away, I rely on nephews to work for me in the summer, says Rausch.

One of those, he says, is a 17-year-old nephew who has worked on the dairy the past two summers. Proposed changes, while not applying to farmers’ children, would treat extended family members like any non-related hired hands.

Rausch says, "He couldn't be in the barn milking cows, going out and getting cows to bring them into milk because he'd be in the catch pen with the cows."

The U.S. Department of Labor has come under criticism for not updating child labor laws in 40 years. The department cites child injury and fatality rates as four times higher on ag-operations than those outside agriculture.

The proposals are most likely to impact 14- and 15-year-olds who are not the children of the farm owner or operator, according to a Michigan State University study.

Kent Winters farms near Andale. Winter says he relies on his 14- and 16-year-old sons to help because their older siblings have moved on. He says some proposed changes could impact his kids.

Winter says, "Much of the farm equipment being used today would be off limits to children by the mere fact the tractor seat is more than six feet off the ground."

The Department of Labor is reviewing their proposed changes and is expected to issue their changes sometime this summer.

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