U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, announced that yesterday the Department of Labor (DOL) officially withdrew a proposed rule that would severely limit the tasks that adolescents and children could perform on farms and ranches across the country. After proposing the rule last year, DOL received overwhelming opposition to the rule from farmers and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, including Alexander.
On December 16, 2011, Alexander and over 150 of his colleagues sent a letter to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis expressing opposition to the rule. "The safety of all workers is of utmost importance," the letter stated, "but these regulations are harmful to the way agriculture has been practiced in the United States for generations." In addition to the letter, Alexander, who serves as Vice-Chairman of Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, recently challenged Solis about the issue during her testimony to the subcommittee.
"I am pleased that the Department of Labor listened to those who actually understand the dynamics of farm life. While the safety of our young farm workers is essential to all of us, it was evident that this rule was proposed by people entirely uninformed of how agriculture really works. Agriculture is not just about jobs, crops, and livestock; it is actually about culture, a way of life that has been practiced and passed on from generation to generation. Rather than learning productive and noble skills for the benefit of society, this rule would have sidelined our next generation of farmers and ranchers," Alexander stated.
Instead of implementing the rule, DOL said it would work with the Department of Agriculture, as well as "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."
Alexander continued, "I am glad to know that, in place of using misguided force, DOL will instead use education through public-private partnerships to protect our young workers. This approach will allow them to learn how to safely perform critical agricultural tasks to meet the needs of our future."