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New Labor Rules Could Impact Farms, Ranchers

on-the-4-wheeler.jpg The best help on the ranch is often the high school kid from town who is willing to work hard after school and on weekends. However, the opportunity for these young people to earn money, learn life lessons and work outdoors might be stripped away if the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has any say in the matter. Plus, the proposed rules would seem to indicate a true disconnect with our federal government about who we are in production agriculture and the amount of work it takes to get our jobs done.

According to the Western Farm Press, “For the first time since the 1970s, DOL is proposing amendments and additions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in an attempt to increase safety requirements for young workers employed in agriculture.The proposed rules do not attempt to make changes or limit the current exemption for youth workers employed on farms owned or operated by parents — the new rules would only apply to hired workers. The FLSA currently bars young workers from certain tasks, but the rules have traditionally allowed more flexibility with respect to the employment of young workers employed in agriculture.”

According to DOL, "The proposed rules would ‘increase parity between agricultural and nonagricultural child labor provisions.'" And Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis says, "Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America."

Western Farm Press goes on to report, "DOL is proposing rules prohibiting hired workers (under age 16) from working with certain animals, handling pesticides, working in timber operations, and working in or around manure pits and storage bins. Further, the new rules would prohibit farm workers under the age of 16 from participating in the cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco and from using electronic devices while operating power-driven equipment. The department is also proposing a new non-ag hazardous occupations order that would prevent children under the age of 18 from working in grain elevators, feedlots, stockyards, and livestock exchanges and auctions."

How would this impact your operation? If passed, would you lose some of your hired help? What messages should we send to DOL about these rules?

By the way, you might enjoy Troy Marshall’s satirical take on the proposed DOL rules from last week’s issue of BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly, "When It Comes To Kids, We Are Barbarians."