The U.S. Department of Labor is considering changes in federal child labor laws that would prohibit children under the age of 16 from doing most any kind of work around a farm.  If the changes are adopted, farm kids not yet 16 years old wouldn't be allowed to operate farm machinery or even work with livestock.

As you might expect, this is causing a firestorm of protest from Congressmen, farmers and others, especially in farm states.


Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced the proposal last September:

"Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America ...Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department, and this proposal is another element of our comprehensive approach."

Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg has nothing but criticism for the proposed regulations. “This is what happens when big city bureaucrats try to craft policies for rural America.”

Many state farm groups have joined the protest.  The South Dakota Farmers Union's reaction is typical of how the state organizations feel.

“Our children are our greatest resource for continuing family agricultural operations. Without being allowed to learn the day-to-day operation of the farm or ranch, the future of rural America would be in jeopardy.”

As originally proposed, the rules change would have prohibited under age kids from working on ANY farm, even their own parents' farm.  After loud and vocal protests from every direction, the Labor Department softened the rule to allow under age kids to work on their parents' farms, but not on any other farm.  Not even their uncle's farm.

That did little to stem the criticism, but the Labor Department doesn't appear to be backing down.  The agency is currently preparing to release an updated version of the proposed changes following thousands of public comments for and against the changes.

via Farm State Outrage Intensifies Over Labor Dept. Proposal to Ban Children From Doing Some Chores on Farms |

No one can say when the new rules will go into effect, but political observers says it is an election year after all, and they're betting it won't happen before the election.