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Legislative Update: Preserving America's Family Farms

Location: Unknown

Dear Friends:

Last year, talk of restricting the age of American family farm hands stirred uproar amongst farmers and ranchers across the country. These potential age regulations on the part of the Department of Labor, had they taken affect, would have endangered the traditions and economic stability of one of our country's most important sectors. The concern and fear that was brought on by these possible working age restrictions, which could prevent our farmers' children and grandchildren from working on family farms because of their age, has underscored the need for protecting and guaranteeing the rights of the American farmer.

It is important that we do not enforce working age on family farms from a one-size-fits-all perspective. America has had a long tradition of protecting our nation's young people from being exploited by our labor force, as it should, but the Department of Labor's age restrictions would have a dramatic impact on our nation's farm families, potentially making it illegal for farmers' children or grandchildren to help out on the family farm. America's farm families have responsibly worked the fields across this great country and have fed our nation and cultural heritage for generations. It is important that we stand by American farm families and protect their right to pass on these agricultural traditions to future generations.

That is why last week I voted for the Preserving America's Family Farms Act, which passed the House of Representatives and must now be considered by the Senate. The Act would prohibit the Department of Labor from restricting youth employment on family farms, preserving the rights of farmers to pass on the farming tradition to their children and grandchildren.

Having grown up working on my grandfather's farm in South Arkansas, I know first-hand how these regulations would be overly burdensome to agriculture producers and would punish an industry that has made significant gains in the safety of its younger workers over the last several decades. The safety of all workers is of utmost importance, but these regulations are harmful to the way agriculture has been practiced in the United States for centuries.

Training the next generation of farmers and ranchers is necessary to ensuring a stable food supply for our nation. If we do not encourage participation in agriculture from an early age, we will have fewer and fewer young people staying to work on farms and ranches. The Department of Labor's proposal would also be detrimental to young Americans who want to participate in FFA and 4-H programs, getting hands-on experience in agriculture.

Fortunately, after receiving comments from hundreds of farmers throughout the country and dozens of Members of Congress, including myself, the Department of Labor decided to abandon the proposal entirely. In fact, Secretary Hilda Solis has made it clear that the regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama Administration. Instead, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with 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.

While I support the statement and actions of Secretary Solis, it is vital that we ensure the rights of American farm families for future generations and pass the Preserving America's Family Farms Act. Passage of this Act will protect the rights and traditions of our farm families long after this administration.

As your Congressman, I will continue to fight for farmers and ranchers across our country and to find common sense solutions to the issues that face family farms. By representing a district as agriculturally rich as ours, preserving these rights for Arkansans really hits home. I will work together with both sides of the aisle to protect and improve one of our country's oldest and most vital industries.

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