The U.S. Department of Labor’s recent decision to withdraw the proposed rule dealing with family farms and child labor calmed a months-long storm in rural America.

Accused by opponents of being a hyper-regulatory over-reach, the rule would have prevented the children of farming families from many work-related activities.

But even as the DOL announcement was welcomed in farm country, it still leaves plenty of agricultural labor issues to resolve.

"The decision to withdraw this rule — including provisions to define the 'parental exemption' — was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms,” a DOL statement said. “To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.”

In lieu of the new rules, the DOL plans to work on educational efforts with leading farm organizations “to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices."

In early May, Frank Gasparini, Executive Vice President of the National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE), spoke with Farm Press on the importance of farm groups standing strong, ranching families’ big role, the DOL’s promised outreach, and where H-2A/H-2B and E-Verify legislation stands.

Among his comments:

On the DOL’s withdrawal of proposed child farm labor rules…

“The DOL was invited — and I use that word facetiously — to talk to several congressmen about (the rules). I hate to name any because I’ll leave some out, but (Montana Rep.) Denny Rehberg and a number of others really put pressure on DOL asking ‘what are you doing? Why are you doing this — it’s bad for family farms.’

“Over the course of this, I found it remarkable how well agricultural groups stuck together and how much pressure people kept up through writing letters to newspapers, calling their congressmen and all the rest.

“Despite the fact that it looked like USDA wasn’t standing up to DOL on this, apparently there was a lot more going on behind the scenes than most of us realized. I’ve heard that USDA continued, through back channels, to tell DOL this wouldn’t be good. And apparently that pressure finally filtered throughout the (Obama) administration and they decided not to promulgate the rules.