The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing new restrictions on child labor on farms, but U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the rules would not apply to farm kids doing work on their family’s farm. The rules would only apply to children under the age of 16 who are hired to do farm work, according to Vilsack.
“When you take a look at the number of injuries that occur, there’s a fairly significant number of people who get hurt on the farm,” Vilsack says, “and anything we can do to make it safer, as long as they’re reasonable, we should at least be talking about and considering.”
The proposed Department of Labor rules would prohibit kids under the age 16 hired to work on a farm from operating almost all power-driven equipment. Other proposed restrictions deal with the use of chemicals and how high young workers could climb on ladders used on the farm. Vilsack says the aim is safety for kids who’re hired to work on farms and the rules would not apply to kids who’ve grown up on the family farm.
“This is not going to regulate the ability of a son or daughter to be on the farm, doing the chores that they have traditionally and normally done,” Vilsack says. “What this really is designed and focused on is more hired labor on farmsteads and recognizing that farming is, because of the nature of farming, it can be a very dangerous occupation.” The proposals have angered some farm groups who say the government is becoming too involved in traditional family operations.
Vilsack made his comments during an appearance on Iowa Public Radio.