WASHINGTON — Under intense pressure from individual farmers and rural organizations, the U.S. Department of Labor said Friday that it would be dropping an unpopular plan to prevent children from doing hazardous work on farms.
The proposed rules would have banned children younger than 16 from using most power-driven farm equipment; it would also have prevented those younger than 18 from working in feedlots, grain bins and stockyards.
Labor officials claimed the goal of the regulation all along was to reduce the fatality rate for child farm workers, but it had quickly become a popular political target for Republicans who called it an impractical, heavy-handed regulation that ignored the reality of small farms.
“It was a ridiculous regulation,” said Clarence Reilly, a farmer from lower Augusta Township. “Riding farm equipment is how I learned to farm and it’s how my son is learning. And by the way, he loves it.”
“Isn’t that the point?” said Mark O’Neill, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. The regulations would have jeopardized the role parents play in teaching children the value of on-the-farm work.
The decision is a major victory for farm families in Pennsylvania and across the nation, he continued. “The proposal brought into legal question whether children of farmers, whose business was part of a family partnership, LLC (Limited Liability Company) or family farm corporation, could allow their own children to perform typical farm chores, such as milking cows, if they were under the age of 16.”
PFB was also troubled by a proposed rule that would have severely restricted non-farm youth involved in FFA and 4-H programs from working with any livestock for the purposes of agriculture education.