In response to requests from congressional members and the public, including comments submitted by the NCC and other agricultural interest organizations, the Department of Labor (DOL) is “re-proposing” the portion of their proposed child labor rule regarding the agricultural parental exemption. The re-proposed rule should be published by early summer, and it will be open for public comment. The DOL will continue to review the comments received regarding the remaining portions of the proposed rule for inclusion in a final rule. No date has been set for finalizing the rest of the proposed rule.

In testimony to the House Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade, the DOL stated, “Until the revised exemption is final, the Wage and Hour Division will apply the parental exemption to situations in which the parent or person standing in the place of a parent is a part owner of the farm, a partner in a partnership or an officer of a corporation that owns the farm if the ownership interest in the partnership or corporation is substantial. This approach is consistent with guidance the Wage and Hour Division has provided to the public on its website for the past several years.”

In addition to DOL, agriculture had a large presence at the hearing-- with testimony from a Missouri hog producer, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the West Virginia Dept. of Agriculture and the National FFA Organization.

On Sept. 2, 2011, the DOL published and invited public comments on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on its proposed child labor rule. The proposed rule sought to revise child labor regulations in agricultural and non-agricultural occupations, but perhaps most significantly, the rule could have added new restrictions to the agricultural parental exemption, which allowed children under 15 to perform certain tasks on farms owned by their families.

Joining together to criticize the proposal were a group of 72 agricultural organizations saying the proposal “would significantly curtail the employment opportunities available to youth working in U.S. agriculture…”

Their comments: 1) address misrepresentations in a Human Rights Report issued last year that the Department quoted in a press statement; 2) raise concerns about the Department’s interpretation of the exemptions for children working for their parents and student learners; 3) oppose new and additional restrictions on tractor and other power driven machinery use by minors; 4) oppose the overly broad expansion of the Hazardous Occupation Orders (HO) relating to livestock, timber, construction, elevated surfaces, work involving storage bins and silos; and 5) discourage the Department from issuing a new agriculture HO that would limit exposure of young farm workers to extreme temperatures.

It is unknown when the Department will propose a final regulation, but the NCC remains engaged and will monitor the process.