Feds drop plan to restrict youth's work on farm

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Controversial rule would have limited teens’ ability to work on family farms.

By The Staff

The controversial proposed new federal rule that would have limited the ability of teens to work on their family farm is no more.

The federal Department of Labor this week withdrew its plan to restrict the availability of young people to work on farms, even those owned by their own family.

The rule that emerged last September proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standard Act that would prevent kids under 16 from driving tractors or operating certain types of power equipment, unless under the supervision of a parent on an unincorporated family farm. Also, children under 18 wouldn’t be able to work in storing, marketing or transporting raw farm products or work directly with livestock.

In February, the DOL made minor modifications to allow under-age employees to have guidance from a grandparent or other family member, but only if the parent is at least a part owner in the farm.

But farm families – many of them with multiple generations in Shelby County – and government leaders complained about the law, which not only restricted the children’s ability to perform needed work and learn about agriculture but also had a negative impact on 4-H programs that have been part of the county’s heritage for generations.

Doug Langley, a fifth-generation farmer in Shelby County and a former Kentucky Farmer of the Year, was one who spoke out against the rules.

"The way I learned to farm was from following around my dad at five years old," Langley said earlier this year. "I'd grab a shovel and go in the corn crib with my dad. Now, was that work or play? My dad would've probably said I was playing, but I thought it was work. And I was proud of it.

"According to this law, my son Christopher, who's sixteen, can't help is grandfather on his farm in Bagdad; it's just ridiculous."

One of those who fought in Washington against the change was U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Bowling Green), whose District 2 represents Shelby County until redistricting takes affect in January.

“I am relieved the Department of Labor finally listened to our concerns about this rule that would have eliminated farmers’ abilities to include the next generation of farmers on their farm,” Guthrie said in a statement released by his office. “I remain astounded by the amount of time and effort it took for this Administration come to its senses and withdraw the proposed rule.”

Guthrie helped form a grassroots campaign against the rule change, www.KeepFamiliesFarming.com.
“I would like to thank everyone who submitted their personal stories and photos of their family farms,” he said. “I am glad they could take part in getting the message across to DOL and help preserve the future of Kentucky’s family farms.”