By Ty Higgins
This week, the County Presidents of The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation are making the annual trek to the Nation’s Capital for the 66thtime. The one thing that has not changed since the inaugural trip is that there is never a lack of issues
on The Hill that could have huge implications for agriculture.
One such issue is child labor. A proposal by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to revise regulations on youth employment in agriculture could affect family farms across the country. Last September, the DOL published a notice of proposed rulemaking that would amend and expand a number of existing hazardous occupation orders as they pertain to the employment of youths under the age of 16 on farms.
Paul Schlegel, with the American Farm Bureau Federation, said this is one issue to keep a very close eye on.
“The Department of Labor received over 10,000 comments, most of which agree with our perspective,” said Schlegel about the overreach of authority of the proposed rule. “They have since said that they would re-proposed some parts of the rule, but we still don’t know what exactly what that means so we still have quite a ways to go until we have something that we can live with.”
Why is this issue so important? With every generation becoming more and more removed from the farm, the viability of agriculture is contingent on the younger generation wanting to become a part of the farm for many years to come. If that early experience of the farm way of life is not available for young people, the ambition to keep the operation intact declines.
“We’re training a future generation of farmers,” Schlegel said. “They get a work ethic and a way of life that fewer and fewer people are exposed to and we would like to keep the interest in farming going.”
For approximately a decade, activists have attempted to pass legislation amending the Fair Labor Standards Act to restrict the ability of youth under the age of 16 to work in agriculture. Farm Bureau opposes this most recent attempt and is working in a bipartisan manner with members of both the House and the Senate to ensure that the department does not narrow the family farm exemption or unduly limit employment opportunities for youths under age 16 on farms.