Administration backs down on child labor regs for farms
The Obama administration has withdrawn controversial regulations that would have prevented children under 16 from working in many farm jobs.
While the government claims the regs would have exempted family farms. many rural lawmakers were unconvinced that the broadly drawn language in that respect wouldn't have applied to families who own or partially own their own farm.
In announcing the walk back, the labor department tried to put the best face on a stinging rebuke from rural America:
"The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations," the Labor Department said in a statement announcing the withdrawal of the rule.
"The Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations."
The new regulations would have forbidden children younger than 16 years of age from completing "agricultural work with animals and in pesticide handling, timber operations, manure pits and storage bins." It would also have barred farm workers under 16 from handling most "power-driven equipment" and from contributing to the "cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco."
The Labor Department received thousands of comments on the proposed rule from safety advocates, ranchers, unions, agriculture associations and members of Congress. Many were concerned the rule would apply to family farms, despite an exemption included by the Labor Department.
But critics of the rule, including Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), argued the language of the exemption was unclear. He said it would be left "to the whims of how the next Labor secretary or the next administration decides to interpret these rules," Rehberg said.
"You've got a president of the United States ... from Chicago, you've got a director for secretary of Labor who's pushing this from Los Angeles, and you have to think to yourself, do you have any idea what it's like not just to run an agricultural business in a rural state ... but to raise a family in one?" Rehberg told The Hill in December.
It wasn't just the rules on child labor that had much of rural America up in arms. The government was also seeking to replace 4-H and other private safety training programs with one, big, centralized training regime run by Washington.
A small, but significant victory, against government overreach.