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 that 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.
The governor released this statement on the rules:
(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry Branstad and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today commended the United States Department of Labor after learning that the department has begun to reconsider onerous regulations on youth working on farms.
In November of 2011, Gov. Branstad and Sec. Bill Northey sent a letter to Sec. Solis voicing their concern. In the letter, Gov. Branstad and Sec. Northey asked the department to give Iowa farmers a fair opportunity to comment and called the rule “a prime example of Federal overreach.”
“I am pleased to learn that Secretary Solis and the Department of Labor are reconsidering their burdensome regulations on Iowa farm families,” said Branstad. “As I grew up on a family farm, I learned the value of a strong work ethic by working alongside my family. I firmly believe that Iowa farm families are better at ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their children than bureaucrats in Washington.”
“It is important we continue to provide opportunities for young people to learn about agriculture and gain experience by working on farms in a responsible manner,” Northey said. “This announcement by the Department of Labor shows that they are responding to the comments they received and hearing the concerns of the farming community.”