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Labor law changes

December 3, 2011
Jesse Willis President, Grundy County Farm Bureau , Reinbeck Courier

Dear Editor,

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed changes to labor rules that will greatly restrict farm work for children under the age of 16 and change long-standing rules exempting children related to farmers. We ENCOURAGE members of the agricultural community to provide personal comments by going to the US Department of Labor comment web site

If enacted, these rules will fundamentally change the way families are allowed to work on the farm and eliminate opportunities for children to benefit from work experiences on the farm, including opportunities for children who aspire to become farmers and be involved in youth training programs such as 4-H and FFA.

These new rules would impact Iowa farm families in the following ways:

1) They would change the family exemption to farm labor rules so that children under the age of 16 may not engage in most farm tasks unless their parents are the sole owners or managers of the farm. Nieces, nephews, and grandchildren of farmers would not be able to engage in many farm tasks; nor would children whose parents own and/or operate a farm along with their siblings, aunts and uncles, etc.

2) Children under the age of 16 who are not exempted from farm labor rules under the new, narrower parental exemption would be prohibited from operating electric or motorized tools and equipment (anything not powered by hand or foot), greatly restricted from working with livestock, and prevented from working six feet above the ground. In other words, children could be barred from using power tools, operating pressure washers, herding or castrating livestock, running lawnmowers, stacking hay, painting buildings, and more!

3) Youth programs that offer children hands-on agricultural experience and education, like 4-H and FFA, would face significant limitations.

Clearly, these new restrictions and others proposed by DOL go too far by effectively banning children from gaining the kind of hands-on work experience and guidance from senior families members that help keep them safe.

Grundy County Farm Bureau urges all affected by this proposal to share examples of how you value and practice safety on your farm. Give the Department of Labor specific, real world examples illustrating how the new rules will fundamentally change the way your family works on the farm and will limit learning opportunities for children.


Jesse Willis

President, Grundy

County Farm Bureau



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