April 27, 2012

(Washington, DC) – US Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) praised the Obama Administration’s decision to withdraw a proposed rule that would have restricted the ability of young people to work on family farms.  Shaheen asked the Administration to reconsider the proposed rule on youth agricultural labor in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis in February and cosponsored legislation to block the rule.

“Young people who work on farms in New Hampshire and across the county learn valuable skills and gain important experience while contributing to their rural communities,” said Shaheen.  “I am glad the Obama Administration has withdrawn this rule, respecting our country’s important commitment to the tradition of family farming and protecting the financial stability of these families.”

This past September, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed extensive changes to existing youth labor rules to limit the activities of children under the age of 16 who work on farms.

Under current rule, children working on their parents’ farms are exempt from existing labor regulations.

The new ruling could have narrowed this exemption so that children in families whose farms are registered as businesses or companies would not necessarily have been exempt. The ruling would have also prohibited youth from performing many commonplace farm tasks, such as operating tractors and other power-driven farm equipment, working at an elevation of more than six feet and assisting in any procedures (including vaccinations) that could cause pain to animals. 

Shaheen was a cosponsor of the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act, S.2221, which would have prevented the Department of Labor from implementing these changes.

Now that the Administration has withdrawn the proposal, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will instead work with rural stakeholders – such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H – to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices.

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