Emphasizing that the U.S. Department of Labor's proposed child labor rule is inconsistent with Congressional intent, Georgia Farm Bureau submitted comments to the DOL's Wage and Hour Division on in a letter from GFB President Zippy Duvall.
Duvall took issue with the DOL's interpretations of the exemption for children working for their parents or persons standing in place of their parents and the student learner exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
"Georgia Farm Bureau has neither an interest nor desire in putting young people at risk on a farm," Duvall wrote. "They are our future, and while it is true some jobs are not appropriate for youth, it must not be forgotten that age-appropriate employment can be a positive experience.
" The proposed rule includes a provision allowing youth to work for relatives during summer vacation or when residing with the relatives, but not in situations where the youth commutes to the relative's farm on a daily or weekend basis.
“GFB maintains there is no reason for this limitation, noting that young people have worked on relatives' farms for decades. ”
Duvall pointed out that since 2005 numerous pieces of legislation have been introduced in Congress to amend the FLSA to prohibit children under age 18 from working in agriculture. During that time, when Congress has been under the control of both Democrats and Republicans, none of these has been brought to a floor vote or prompted a legislative hearing.
Duvall also expressed concern over language in the DOL's proposal that would prohibit young people from working on family-owned farms that are jointly owned by the same family or farms where the worker's parent has chosen to incorporate.
The proposed rule would also limit opportunities for students to learn safe farm work practices through programs like those offered by the Future Farmers of America.
Duvall pointed out that agricultural educators are tasked with supervising students and delivering safety instruction, and they take this responsibility seriously.
He suggested that the proposed rules should be revised to allow students to continue learning through programs like FFA, saying, "these leadership opportunities for young people should not be limited based on federal overreach."
Finally, Duvall expressed dismay over sweeping and unfounded allegations by Human Rights Watch that farmers typically violate wage laws and comments from U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis accusing farmers of "robbing children of their childhood," and suggested that these statements demonstrate a lack of objectivity within the DOL.
Additional information can be found at http://southeastfarmpress.com/management/child-labor-proposal-raises-concerns and http://southeastfarmpress.com/cotton/ag-groups-comment-child-labor-proposal.