NASHVILLE, TENN. – National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Bill Donald welcomed a crowd of roughly 6,000 cattlemen and women to Nashville, Tenn., for the 2012 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show with news that the U.S. Department of Labor announced Feb. 1 the agency’s intent to reconsider a portion of its proposed rule related to on-farm child labor. Donald commended American farmers and ranchers for making their voices heard on the proposed rule, which could have restricted, and in some instances totally prevented, America’s youth from working on farms and ranches.
“You’ve all probably heard of the Department of Labor’s proposed rule that would prevent youth under the age of 15 from working on farms and ranches. The department announced this afternoon that they will re-evaluate the original proposal. This is big news. Your voices – our voices – were heard,” he said. “This issue goes to the very fiber of who we are in this country. It goes right to the fact that businesses are looking to fill positions with farm and ranch kids because they have a work ethic. They do their chores before they get on the school bus and do them again when they get home. So thanks to all of you, the Department of Labor listened finally.”
Specifically, the department will reconsider the “parental exemption” portion of the proposal. According to Donald, the proposed rule would have prevented youth under the age of 15 years from working on farms or ranches owned by anyone other than their parents. He said it failed to take into consideration youth working for an aunt or uncle or for a partnership with which their family is involved. He added in rural America, working on a neighbors’ farm or ranch is a way of life and taking away that opportunity for America’s youth would result in fewer people entering into production agriculture.
The Department of Labor received thousands of comments on the proposed rule and announced they would continue seeking input on the “parental exemption” language. The department said it expects to re-propose a rule in early summer 2012. Donald said the agency did not go far enough and should scrap the provision completely.
“Rather than strapping our hands behind our backs and preventing American youth from learning the ropes of food and fiber production from today’s farmers and ranchers, the department should scrap this provision completely. Instead, it should work with farmers and ranchers to ensure the rules on the books are workable,” Donald said. “Rules and regulations, including those related to America’s youth working on farms and ranches, need to ensure safe working conditions. But the original proposal simply goes too far. Cattlemen’s voices were heard today. We will continue working to ensure our kids and grandkids have the opportunity to earn a living producing the safest, most nutritious beef in the world.”