Department of Labor’s proposed changes to child labor in ag

Since the Department of Labor released proposed changes the end of last year, child labor in agriculture has become a hot topic in the industry. Farmers and ranchers across the country were quick to voice their concerns, and as a result the public comment period was extended to allow more discussion.

The comment period has since closed, but the discussion has lingered. People are still talking about parental exemptions and power driven machines. The Department of Labor shared five facts about the proposal that may clarify a few areas for producers.

Photo Courtesy of USDA NRCS2

 1. The proposed Child Labor in Agriculture rule will not prohibit all people under the age of 18 from working on a farm.

Under the Fair Labor Standard’s Act, the legal age to be employed on a farm without restrictions is 16. The proposed rule would, however, prohibit the employment of workers under the age of 18 in nonagricultural occupations in the farm-product raw materials wholesale trade industries. Prohibited establishments would include country grain elevators, grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, feed yards, stockyard, livestock exchanges, and livestock auctions not on a farm or used solely by a single farmer.

2. The proposed rule would not eliminate the parental exemption for owners/operators of a family farm.

The parental exemption for the owner or operator of a farm is statutory and cannot be eliminated through the regulatory process. A child of any age may perform any job, even hazardous work, at any age at any time on a farm owned by his or her parent. A child of any age whose parent operates a farm may also perform any task, even hazardous jobs, on that farm but only outside of school hours. So for children working on farms that are registered as LLCs, but operated solely by their parents, the parental exemption would still apply.

3. This proposed regulation will not eliminate 4-H and FFA programs.

The proposed rule would in no way prohibit a child from raising or caring for an animal in a non-employment situation — even if the animal were housed on a working farm — as long as he or she is not hired or “employed” to work with the animal. In such a situation, the child is not acting as an “employee” and is not governed by the child labor regulations.

4. Under the proposed rule, children will still be able to help neighbors in need

In order for the child labor provisions of the FLSA to apply, there must first be an employer/employee relationship.

5. Children will still be able to take animals to the county fair or to market.

There would be no problem with taking the animal to the county fair or to market, since the child is doing this on his/her own behalf – not on behalf of an employer. The proposed prohibitions would apply only if the child was an employee of the exchange or auction.

What are your thoughts about the proposed regulation?

You must be at least 18 years of age to participate. If you are not at least 18-years-old please don’t comment.

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About Farm Safety For Just Kids

Farm Safety For Just Kids is a non-profit organization devoted to promoting a safe farm environment to prevent health hazards, injuries, and fatalities to rural children and youth. We produce and distribute educational materials addressing various dangers commonly found in the rural environment. Farm Safety For Just Kids is supported by a chapter network of grassroots volunteers located throughout the United States and Canada. The organization also has part-time outreach coordinators in several states. Chapters, outreach coordinators, and volunteers conduct educational programs to raise awareness about safety and health issues affecting their communities.
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