Proposed Labor Department Regulations Would Impact Young Farm Workers

Apr 11, 2012

Some farmers and political leaders in our region are speaking out against new US Labor Department rules regarding child workers on farms. Many in the agriculture industry say the proposed changes would change longstanding traditions, but the government says the rules don’t apply to children working on farms owned by their parents.

The 200 pages of proposed changes by the Labor Department would bring regulations on farms more in line with child-labor laws for non-agricultural workplaces.

According to government figures, ag workers aged 15 to 17 are four times more likely to die on the job than those working in nonfarm settings.

The Labor Department stresses children of any age could still work on a farm owned or operated by a parent. But some farmers in the region aren’t convinced the changes won’t bring unintended consequences.

The Tennessean quoted some as saying it’s normal for their kids’ friends and underage relatives to help out on the farm.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell has denounced the proposed changes as government overreach into privately-owned business. And in Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam is expected to sign a bill that would prohibit the state or any local government from using public money to enforce the revised rules.