U.S. Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) today introduced common sense legislation, the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act, to prevent the Department of Labor (DOL) from enacting its controversial proposed restrictions on youth working on family farms.
Last year, DOL Secretary Hilda Solis proposed rules that would restrict family farm operations by prohibiting youth under the age of 18 from being near certain age animals without adult supervision, participating in common livestock practices such as vaccinating and hoof trimming, and handling most animals more than six months old, which would severely limit participation in 4-H and FFA activities and restrict their youth farm safety classes; operating farm machinery over 20 PTO horsepower; completing tasks at elevations over six feet high; and working at stockyards and grain and feed facilities. The language of the proposed rule is so specific it would even ban youth from operating a battery powered screwdriver or a pressurized garden hose.
“The Department of Labor has proposed 85 pages of unreasonable and overreaching rules that would unnecessarily restrict the participation of young people in agriculture related activities,” said Thune. “Family farms and farming communities teach young people responsible work ethics and these proposed rules would change that by severely limiting the commonplace activities in which young people can learn about agriculture. This is another example of the Obama administration initiating unsolicited regulations that would prohibit normal practices that have been carried out in rural areas for generations—not to mention limiting a desperately needed workforce to replace the current generation of farmers whose average age is nearing 60 years old.”
“There is no better example of the vast overreach of government into the everyday lives of Americans than the Department of Labor’s proposed rule to regulate young people working on farms and ranches,” Sen. Moran said. “For generations, the contributions of young people have helped family farm and ranch operations survive and prosper. If this proposal goes into effect, not only will the shrinking rural workforce be further reduced, and our nation’s youth be deprived of valuable career training opportunities, but a way of life will begin to disappear. This proposal should alarm more than just rural America. If the federal government can regulate the relationship between parents and their children on their own family’s farm, there is virtually nothing off limits when it comes to government intrusion into our lives.”
In December of last year, Thune and Moran and 28 of their Senate colleagues sent a letter to Secretary Solis requesting that the proposed rule be withdrawn and outlined numerous concerns. As of today, DOL has not responded to the bipartisan letter.
In addition to Thune and Moran, the bipartisan bill has attracted 37 cosponsors in the Senate, including: Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R- Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Daniel Coats (R-Ind.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), David Vitter (R-La.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)