Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt welcomed news yesterday that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has withdrawn a proposed rule dealing with youth working in agriculture. The pair sent a letter to the DOL in November expressing concerns about the negative impact the proposed regulations would have on farmers and ranchers providing employment opportunities to youth.
"The learning opportunities provided by working in agriculture are second to none," Gov. Brownback said. "Kansans know this and many joined us in expressing their concerns to the DOL about this overly restrictive proposal. I'm pleased that the DOL listened to these voices of reason and withdrew the proposed rule."
"The decision by the Department of Labor, after months of pressure from farm states around the country, to drop the ill-considered new regulation of young people working on farms was the right one," Attorney General Schmidt said. "This decision helps ensure that our rural way of life can continue for another generation."
Last year, DOL Secretary Hilda Solis proposed rules that would restrict family farm operations by prohibiting 14- and 15-year-old farm workers from working with certain types of animals and operating almost any power-driven equipment, including farm tractors and lawn mowers, regardless of safety training completed. The proposed rule also presented a narrow view of the parental exemption that may have excluded the children of parents operating farms owned by a legal entity, such as a LLC. In addition, the proposed rule would have excluded youth family members who are not the children of the operators, such as their nieces, nephews or grandchildren from the family exemption.
In their November 2011 letter, Gov. Brownback and Attorney General Schmidt explained that the proposed rule would create overreaching regulations and place an unnecessary burden on farmers and ranchers. At this time, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman, Secretary of Commerce Pat George and Secretary of Labor Karin Brownlee also voiced similar concerns in a separate letter.
Secretary Rodman wrote another letter in February after the DOL announced it would re-propose a part of its proposed rules.
"The proposal flat didn't work for agriculture and needed to be eliminated not re-proposed," Sec. Rodman said. "Agriculture is vital to the Kansas economy and culture. We should encourage this important pursuit, not burden it with unnecessary restrictions. I'm glad the federal government got that message."
The Obama administration decision to withdraw this rule was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on farms and ranches.
Instead of pursuing the rule, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with rural stakeholders, such as FFA and 4-H, to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safe agricultural working practices.