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Senators Seek to Block Department of Labor Restrictions on Minors Working on Family Farms

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) recently introduced the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act. Should it pass, it the bill would block the US Department of Labor from implementing its proposed restrictions on youth working on family farms.

DOL Secretary Hilda Solis proposed 85 pages of rules last year that would restrict the activities of youth under the age of 18 on farms. Family farm operations, in particular, would be severely hampered.

The proposed DOL rules prohibit youth from being near certain age animals without adult supervision, participating in common livestock practices such as vaccinating and hoof trimming, and handling most animals more than six months old. Such restrictions would severely limit participation in 4-H and FFA activities and restrict their youth farm safety classes. Also included in the restrictions are mandates against operating farm machinery over 20 PTO horsepower; completing tasks at elevations over six feet high; and working at stockyards and grain and feed facilities. The language of the proposed rule is so specific it would even ban youth from operating a battery powered screwdriver or a pressurized garden hose.

Senator Thune believes the proposed regulations are “unreasonable and overreaching” and would “unnecessarily restrict the participation of young people in agriculture related activities. On presenting his bill he said, “Family farms and farming communities teach young people responsible work ethics and these proposed rules would change that by severely limiting the commonplace activities in which young people can learn about agriculture. This is another example of the Obama administration initiating unsolicited regulations that would prohibit normal practices that have been carried out in rural areas for generations—not to mention limiting a desperately needed workforce to replace the current generation of farmers whose average age is nearing 60 years old.”

Senator Moran observed, “There is no better example of the vast overreach of government into the everyday lives of Americans than the Department of Labor’s proposed rule to regulate young people working on farms and ranches. For generations, the contributions of young people have helped family farm and ranch operations survive and prosper. If this proposal goes into effect, not only will the shrinking rural workforce be further reduced, and our nation’s youth be deprived of valuable career training opportunities, but a way of life will begin to disappear. This proposal should alarm more than just rural America. If the federal government can regulate the relationship between parents and their children on their own family’s farm, there is virtually nothing off limits when it comes to government intrusion into our lives.”

Secretary Solis had a consistently liberal voting record as a US representative, is an adamant supporter of the AFL-CIO, and an ideological progressive.  In making the proposed changes she failed to consult any senators or representatives from predominantly agricultural states. Instead, she represents yet one more in a long list of presidentially appointed cabinet members and czars driven by an ideology foreign to the heartland of America.

In December of last year, Thune and Moran and 28 of their senate colleagues sent a letter requesting that the proposed rule be withdrawn and outlined numerous concerns. As of today, DOL has not responded to the bipartisan letter.

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