Thursday, February 2, 2012

PA Farm Bureau Challenges Proposed Regulations to Limit Youth Working on Family Farms

(Washington D.C.) – Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) is calling on the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to withdraw or revise proposed regulations that would place excessive limitations on the ability of youth to work on family farms. 
     During testimony today before the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade, PFB recognized that DOL announced yesterday it would re-propose a portion of its regulations dealing with the parental exemption on children working in agriculture, but Farm Bureau warns that still doesn’t mean the new proposal will address the concerns of American farmers.

     “The Labor Department must take great care in considering any changes to the existing parental exemption and other proposed changes that could significantly jeopardize the opportunity for children under 16 from working on family farms,” said PFB Vice President Richard Ebert.
     The Westmoreland County dairy farmer, who milks 80 Holstein cows and grows corn, alfalfa hay and soybeans in partnership with his brother, says DOL should not invoke regulations that forbid farmers from employing their own children or reserve the right to tell farm owners if they can hire family members under 16.  
     “Safety is a top priority on the farm. Responsible farmers are not going to allow our children or other young workers to take on a task that they are not capable of doing safely.  I would never put my children in danger by allowing them to perform a chore that was beyond their ability to accomplish safely,” added Ebert.
     Farm Bureau noted that it is also concerned about several proposals that would severely restrict the ability of youth to work with any livestock for the purposes of agriculture education.  Children involved in 4-H, FFA and other non-farm youth might not be allowed to milk cows under the proposed changes.  Youth would also be required to significantly increase the number of agriculture education safety courses, up from 15 to 90 hours, and they would have to accomplish this despite major budget cuts at many schools.  DOL’s archaic proposal of limiting youth to only using hand or foot powered farm equipment would also extremely limit the amount of work a child could perform, despite technological advances that make it much safer to accomplish farm tasks.
     PFB added that children raised on farms and other children with a strong interest in agriculture not only help family farms meet labor needs, they also provide valuable life experiences for youth, regardless of whether they pursue a career in agriculture. 
     “My four children, the youngest of whom is now 18, all worked on the family farm, doing a wide variety of chores, ranging from field work to milking cows, while learning valuable life lessons along the way.  These life lessons of hard work, perseverance, stewardship, resourcefulness, teamwork and responsibility are rarely replicated anywhere in the lives of children outside the farm atmosphere,” concluded Ebert.

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