Letter from Rep. Danou: Federal Farm Labor Rules scrapped due to strong oppositionThis week I am pleased to report that the U.S. Department of Labor has agreed to reconsider several contentious rules they proposed which could have prevented children from working on family farms.
By: Rep. Chris Danou , Pierce County Herald
This week I am pleased to report that the U.S. Department of Labor has agreed to reconsider several contentious rules they proposed which could have prevented children from working on family farms. I was pleased to lead a bipartisan group of Wisconsin legislators who opposed these new rules in a letter to Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. I am happy to report that the Department of Labor is revising the farm workplace labor standards to ensure that the new policy addresses the needs of the family farmer.
The need to change the rules was clear. Not only would these proposed rules have created a burden on our family farms, they didn’t take into consideration the way family farms operate in Wisconsin. These rules would have deeply affected our states’ agricultural community, including livestock, grain production, commodity transport, youth agricultural education, and other sectors of the agriculture economy. The proposal prohibited youth from working around animals on a day to day basis and ended 14 & 15 year old certification training to operate tractor and farm equipment. Furthermore, there was concern that these changes may have prohibited children from conducting work related activities at county fairs.
After hearing numerous concerns from family farmers in my district, I was compelled to oppose these proposed farm labor rules. As new farm workplace standards are crafted, we must remember that no reasonable farmer would willingly put an unprepared child into harms way or ask them to conduct farm work that is unsafe.
I am pleased that the Department of Labor is keeping an open mind to the needs of the agricultural community. I want to encourage the department to work along side our nation’s farmers to guarantee labor regulations are practical and in the best interest of our family farm tradition. Keep in mind that I am committed to the highest standards of child safety in the workplace and on the family farm. However, I was deeply concerned with the language used in the current draft of this new proposal. I believe that the letter we sent to our state’s congressional delegation raising concerns about the standards helped compel the Department of Labor to reconsider the proposed rules.
Due to citizen activism on this topic, members of the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate worked together in a bipartisan manner to change minds in the Department of Labor. We have encouraged them to re-examine the proposed rules with greater sensitivity for the agriculture community. We must continue the legacy of our hardworking farmers and not impose new rules that would change generations of traditional family farming methods.