Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) today pushed for leaders of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) to hold a hearing on a rule that would alter the ability of youth to work on the family farm.
"This issue is too important to the success of farms and ranches all across our country," said Roberts. "We need to have a hearing on this proposed regulation and how it threatens the most fundamental tradition in agriculture--working on the family farm."
Sen. Roberts made the request for a hearing in a letter sent today to Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the HELP Committee, which oversees this issue. It was also signed by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), also members of the committee.
At issue is the Department of Labor's (DOL) interpretation of the "parental exemption" in the proposed rule on child labor in agriculture. The text of the proposed rule can be found here. DOL has recently withdrawn that portion, but the threat still remains if the rest of the rule is implemented, which would prohibit youth from participating in basic farm work.
Sen. Roberts has urged DOL to withdraw the entire rule. He has worked with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), an outspoken opponent of the proposed rule, sending letters to the Secretary of Labor urging them to withdraw the rule and asking for an extension of the comment period so busy farmers who were in the middle of harvest would have time to comment.
As a member of the HELP Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Roberts has arranged briefings with DOL on the issue for Senate agriculture staff on the proposed rule and how such a complex regulation would be implemented throughout agriculture.
Below is text of the letter sent to Sen. Harkin today:
Dear Chairman Harkin:
We write to request the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hold a hearing on the U.S. Department of Labor's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (76 Fed. Reg. 54836) regarding youth workers in the agriculture industry.
As members of the Committee, we are committed to ensuring the safety of all workers. We appreciate and support the Department's efforts to promote and enforce safe workplaces across the country.
However, we are concerned with overly burdensome regulations promulgated by this Administration. The Department's proposed rule would have far reaching consequences on farming operations, ranches, agricultural education programs, and the longstanding tradition of youth working in agriculture.
We have heard repeatedly from our constituents that they are very concerned about the impact this unneeded proposed rule would place on their families and rural businesses. They also question the need for this new rule, as ensuring the safety and wellbeing of youth workers is their top priority. Furthermore, the Department has received over 10,000 comments from the American people regarding this proposed rule and we believe it is important for the Committee to exercise its oversight responsibilities in this manner.
Therefore, we seek an opportunity to hear from Department officials as well as stakeholders regarding this proposed rule.
Thank you for considering our request and we look forward to hearing your response.