Labor Dep’t agrees to rethink rules on kids working on farms

Ag/Outdoor, News

February 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Federal officials have agreed to modify a plan that’s designed to protect children from dangerous jobs on family farms. The U-S Labor Department has been under fire from farm groups because the proposed rules were seen as too restrictive. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says he’s encouraged to see the rules are being reconsidered by labor leaders. Harkin says, “They need to get additional information in, go back to the drawing table and write a better regulation.” The original proposal spelled out that children younger than 16 would be banned from using most power equipment, while those under 18 would be barred from working in locations like grain bins and feed lots. The new version will reportedly contain more exemptions for kids whose parents own or run the farms on which they’re working.

“I hope they’ll reach agreement on a regulation that protects kids but also recognizes family agriculture,” Harkin says. “It’s one thing to say that kids shouldn’t be operating fork lifts or humongous tractors or combines and to say they can’t even drive a garden tractor.” Harkin, a Democrat, says he agrees with those who’ve spoken out against the proposed regulations which would tear down generations of farm family traditions. “There has to be some balance, some rational thinking,” Harkin says. “Some of what they’re proposing, fine, but I talked to Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack about this. He says it would go so far to say kids couldn’t even drive a tractor across the road, well, kids have been driving tractors for years.” Labor department officials say they’ll work with the Ag department and others to make sure the new rules reflect rural communities’ concerns.

(Matt Kelley/Radio Iowa)