December 1, 2011
Wage and Hour Division
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210
RE: RIN 1235-AA06 Child Labor Regulations, Order and Statements of Interpretation; Child Labor Violations – Civil Monetary Penalties; Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Request for Comments
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), which represents the commissioners, secretaries and directors of agriculture in the fifty states and four territories, is writing in response to the request for comments on a proposed rulemaking on youth labor in agriculture. We are also a signatory organization to comments submitted by a number of agriculture organizations and wish to supplement those comments with some of our own.
The state agriculture departments have many concerns about the Department of Labor’s proposed rules changes. Our members have been and remain advocates for farm safety and health for children--and adults, for that matter. However, our members see little connection between the changes proposed in the above referenced docket and the data that has been thoroughly analyzed over the last decade and more. Our members support addressing safety concerns that pertain to confined space/gravity-flow grain storage and transport. We also agree with maintaining the current Danger/Poison or Warning for registered agricultural pesticides that are used in accordance with the Agricultural Use Requirements as required by the EPA Worker Protection Standard. However, with regard to the majority of the remaining proposed rule, the DOL appears to be restricting teens from fairly low-risk activities--certainly in comparison to plenty of popular youth recreational and athletic activities, let alone driving or riding in motor vehicles (non farm-related).
We would also like to reiterate our opposition to the DOL limiting the exemption for youth working on a farm owned by their parents. The rule bases the limitation on the parents' choice of legal business organization (sole proprietor vs. family corporation or LLC), or whether the parents are partners with other family members (i.e., grandparents). We view this as arbitrary and discriminatory. As proposed, the regulations threaten to change the way of life and learning on family farms across America, and reduce opportunities for 4-H and FFA members/vocational agriculture students to learn about and practice in the field of agriculture. Eliminating 4-H or Land-Grant University Cooperative Extension programs from providing education programs such as tractor safety programs is unbelievably short-sighted and will only put more individuals in danger.
The proposed rules are very comprehensive and complex in nature. They do not appear to have been particularly well thought out. We respectfully urge the Department to reconsider its proposal, preferably by withdrawing it and then taking an opportunity to meet with agriculture communities throughout the country to determine what risks truly need to be addressed and the best manner in which to address them.
We appreciate the opportunity to submit these comments to DOL and happy to work with you in any appropriate way to assure that youth seeking employment in agriculture are both protected from particularly hazardous occupations without losing access to the employment opportunities they need and depend on.