New Child Labor Laws Could Hurt Small Farms, Advocates Say

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Local farm advocates in Iowa are concerned a new set of child-labor laws would inadvertently restrict the number of future farmers and place unnecessary restrictions on family farms.

According to The Daily Iowan, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a new set of rules in 2011 that prohibit children under the age of 16 from working in manure pits or with certain animals unless their parents completely own the farm.

However, many smaller farms in Iowa are multigenerational, Russ Meade, president of the Johnson County Farm Bureau told The Iowan.

“We have a diverse makeup of smaller farms that rely heavily on extended family involvement,” Meade said. “[The regulations] would significantly restrict kids’ ability to participate.”

Iowa farmer Kurt Dallmeyer said the rules could impact the number of children interested in farming, putting local farms at risk in the future and increasing the trend of factory farms in the state.

“You develop your interest in agriculture at a young age,” Dallmeyer told The Iowan. “If they want to put rules in place that say it’s too dangerous or too scary, they’re basically going to limit the number of people who want to be involved in agriculture, because they don’t have the experience.”

The Labor Department has offered to revise the new rules following complaints from farmers. So far, no specific changes have been made.

Children need the experience of farming early if they are to learn the necessary skills, according to Dal Grooms, director of communications for the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.

“We know that safety and the responsibility of animal care can go hand-in-hand when properly planned and supervised,” Grooms said. “It is through that exposure to circumstances involved in livestock production that young people learn how to safely work with livestock.”

She added, “It’s up to the parent to determine their children’s skills. We want our kids to be safe and would not put them in position of something they can’t handle.”

Photo by | Richard Webb

2 thoughts on “New Child Labor Laws Could Hurt Small Farms, Advocates Say

  1. Ryan, I find it interesting that you singled out “manure pits.” First, no farmer works in manure pits…that is a storage area for manure. The DOL rules are focusing on limiting the activities of young people based on ownership of the land. There are several different ways a farm family can own land based on the business model that makes the most sense. I know this makes it difficult for the DOL to produce rules that fit family farm situations. Until they find the best path to accomplish their goals (of which I’m not sure), they should put these rules aside. BTW, I’m a “she,” a fact you would have known if you hadn’t just re-written someone else’s story.