Northwest farm groups are cheering a federal decision this week to dump proposed child labor rules. The Department of Labor decided to withdraw the plan after it received thousands of comments opposing the change. But child safety advocates say the fierce opposition was based on faulty information.
Politicians from farm and ranch country called the regulations an attack on family farms, going as far to say the rules could outlaw chores and 4-H for farm kids. However, the regulations specifically exempted children working on farms owned or operated by their parents.
The Department of Labor regulations would have banned employing kids 15 and under in certain types of jobs. Things like -- working with large animals, handling pesticides and driving power equipment.
Don Beck is a hay and cattle farmer in Post Falls, Idaho. He says some jobs are inappropriate for young teens. But, he says, farmers need to be able to exercise discretion. “The person on the ground, the farmer who has responsibility for his employees, knows the inherent dangers,” Beck says.
But child labor and workplace safety advocates say an update to the 40-year-old regulations is long overdue. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the fatality rate for 15 to 17-year-olds who work in agriculture is four times higher than the national average for young workers.