Congressman Bill Owens (NY-23) praised a move this week by the Department of Labor to re-propose the portion of its regulation on child labor in agriculture that reinterprets the "parental exemption." In December, Congressman Owens wrote to Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis urging the department to drop changes to the "parental exemption" that would prevent children from working on their family farm.
"I'm pleased the Department of Labor heard our concerns and decided to reevaluate this portion of the rule. Addressing this issue is critical to ensuring young people can carry on the tradition of family farming that is integral to the economy in my district and across the country," Owens said.
The "parental exemption" allows children of any age who are employed by their parent to work on their family farm. Congress created the exemption in 1966 when it expanded protections for children employed in agriculture and prohibited their employment in jobs the Department of Labor declared particularly hazardous for children under the age of 16 to perform.
The original proposed rule would have prevented children from working on a family farm that is only partially owned by their parents. Until the re-proposed rule is final, the Department will apply prior regulations with broader language used before the proposed rule that include parents who are partial owners of an agricultural operation. The Department of Labor expects to propose a new "parental exemption" rule this summer.
"The decision to re-propose this portion of the rule indicates a willingness by DOL to listen to farmers in this instance," added Owens. "This announcement and the additional opportunity for comment are a reasonable approach to keeping farm kids safe while ensuring they continue to have the opportunity to learn the value of farm work."
Owens wrote to the Department after hearing the concern from a young constituent at a town hall in New York's 23rd Congressional District. This is the latest in a series of ideas from New Yorkers that Owens has taken to Washington and implemented.