DOL Proposed Rules could have Critical Effect on Agriculture

New Department of Labor rule will all but eliminate kids under 18 working in agriculture

by Jill Dunkel, FeedLot Magazine

UPDATE: The Department of Labor has extended the comment period on this rule to December 1, 2011. You may submit comments by either of the following:

• Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to the online rulemaking portal. Then click the “Submit a Comment” box found at the top of the page.

• U.S. Mail: Send your comment to Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor, Room S-3502, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20210.

Odds are, many of us involved professionally in agriculture had some type of ag job growing up. Maybe you hauled hay on your ranch or your neighbors’. Perhaps you cowboy’d in the summers and on weekends for extra cash. If your family farmed, you most definitely spent some time inside a tractor as soon as you were old enough to see over the steering wheel.

But if the Department of Labor (DOL) has their way, those days spent helping, learning and contributing to an agribusiness will come to an end for many teenagers. The Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938, which established child labor laws, includes an exemption for agriculture allowing children under 16 to work on farms and ranches. However, a proposal from the DOL seeks to remove that exemption.

The proposal would place new limits on “hired farm workers” under the age of 16, and in some cases 18, restricting their ability to work on horse farms, ranches and auctions. Specifically, the rule would prohibit workers under the age of 18 from working in feedlots, or auction barns, and would also not allow workers under 16 from herding livestock on horseback, on foot or from a motorized vehicle.

Basically, the DOL believes that it’s too dangerous for anyone under 16 to work around livestock. There is an exemption if the teenagers are working on farms or ranches owned by their parents, however farms or ranches that are owned as partnerships with other family members are not exempt.

If this rule becomes law, no longer will ranch kids get to go brandin’ with their parents. Today’s youth won’t be allowed to get a job cleaning horse stalls, feeding cattle, or hauling hay. They won’t be given the opportunity to learn alongside an experienced mentor and develop a love and passion for animal agriculture while developing a strong work ethic.

Joe Parker, Jr., president of Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association said this in his comments submitted to the DOL: “Our youth are a key component to ensure the future of agriculture remains strong and prosperous, and we must continue to afford them the opportunity to be involved at a young age. There is no measure to the valuable experiences and extraordinary work ethic young people gain through working in the cattle industry.”

Initally, public comment was being accepted through November 1, however ag organizations have requested a 60-day extension to the comment period.

Other related articles:

Drovers- http://www.cattlenetwork.com/cattle-news/Farmers-encouraged-to-comment-on-DOL-proposed-rules-131097708.html

US Dept. of Labor- http://www.dol.gov/whd/CL/AG_NPRM.htm

Delta Farm Press- http://deltafarmpress.com/government/agriculture-facing-major-changes-child-labor-laws

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One comment on “DOL Proposed Rules could have Critical Effect on Agriculture

  1. John Spitzer says:

    My observation is that Farm & Ranch kids have more self worth (earned), fewer problems and a will to suceed beyond the “pilgrim” population. “The land, the family the cattle.” Self esteme is earned by our children who follow us around and have real jobs at an early age. Since the political elite progressives simply cannot stand that much confidence – they will strive to take away what is part of our agricultural heritage.

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