It was very hard for me to read about the new U.S. Department of Labor proposed rule on youth working on farms. Many moons ago I worked at DOL (okay, several hundred moons ago, back in the 1980’s), where I was steeped in efforts to promote international labor rights. I worked on the U.N.’s International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions and international efforts to protect children from abusive working conditions.
Why is the DOL now coming out with a proposed rule against youth working on farms? While children under the age of 16 would still be able to work on farms owned by their parents, experts fear the rule would prevent youth from working on farms owned by their grandparents, or other nonguardian relatives, or neighbors’ farms, or their own family farms operating as corporations.
For farmers, who are on average edging toward their 60’s, this proposed rule is seen as a real threat to their ability to teach their children to continue their cultural and family heritage of farming. The grassroots food movement seeks to grow the next generation of farmers, knowing that our community sustainability and food security depends on safeguarding a future of American grown food. This proposed rule is seen by many in agriculture as major threat to that future, preventing (and discouraging) youth from learning the skills that might help them choose a career as a food farmer.
The rule would explicitly prohibit hired youth under 16 from doing a number of things that are considered core to learning how to farm and ranch. A few examples include a prohibition on:
- working inside a fruit, forage, or grain storage container or inside a manure pit.
- cultivating, pulling or curing tobacco.
- herding animals on horseback, specifically outlining no cutting or separating cattle.
- engaging, or assisting, in animal pfizer online viagra husbandry practices, which would include branding, breeding, dehorning, vaccinating, castrating, and treating sick or injured animals.
Would this rule prevent local food projects from giving youth jobs on farms where they can learn husbandry and other important farming skills?
Good intentions, as we all know, do not always lead us down the best or most sensible road. This is an example of a rule that needs to be amended with input from all sectors – especially the farming community and grassroots food movement!