New child labor rules proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) last month that would prevent children under the age of 16 from performing certain farm work have raised concerns among many lawmakers.
The first new child labor regulations issued by the DOL in 40 years propose barring children under the age of 16 from performing tasks such as driving tractors, handling pesticides and branding cattle on farms that have grown to the point of commercialization. The rules do not apply to small, family-owned farms.
A group of more than 70 lawmakers in the House, led by Representative Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), sent a recent letter to the DOL that said the rule “challenges the conventional wisdom of what defines a family farm in the United States,” according to The Hill. The lawmakers believe that the rules are also an assault on a deeply rural-American way of life by urban lawmakers.
“You’ve got a president of the United States … from Chicago, you’ve got a director for secretary of Labor who’s pushing this from Los Angeles, and you have to think to yourself, do you have any idea what it’s like not just to run an agricultural business in a rural state … but to raise a family in one?” asked Rehberg.
The Labor Department has been flooded with more than 6,000 comments about the new rules. Rehberg said the next move should be to withdraw the proposed changes.