WASHINGTON—Young people and the contributions they make as members of farm and ranch families are vital to American agriculture, according to Missouri hog farmer Chris Chinn. Testifying on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation
, she told the House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade that proposed U.S. Department of Labor regulations on child labor would have negative impacts on rural America.
Chinn, who owns and operates a farm with her husband, said the DOL rules could significantly limit the jobs their 14- and 10-year-old children could do on their own farm, and especially on their grandparents’ farm.
“A farmer’s first-hand reaction to these proposed regulations is how negatively they will affect farm families,” she said. “They strip away the ability of youth to work in agriculture, and the desire and goal of parents to pass on to our children the traditions and values we hold.”
Earlier this week the DOL announced a plan to re-propose the “parental exemption,” which prohibits youth from doing various farm activities on farms where they don’t reside. Chinn said that while the move was appreciated, “merely tweaking the rule will not fix something that we believe is fundamentally flawed.”
Traditional, routine farm chores such as driving tractors, milking cows, cutting weeds and building or repairing fences would be considered illegal unless the farm on which a youth works is wholly owned by his or her parents.
She said the regulations lack a grasp of “what it is like to live in rural America” and an understanding of “how farm families help one another.”
AFBF President Bob Stallman said the DOL decision to re-propose the parental exemption “is a positive step, but much more work is needed.” The proposed regulations, he said, still would have a detrimental effect on family farms and would create an even tighter supply of farm labor.
Contact Tracy Taylor Grondine
, 202-406-3642, or Mace Thornton
, 202-406-3641, AFBF public relations.