Dec. 1 is an important date for many reasons. This year it's the last date for comments to the Department of Labor about proposed rules that would greatly restrict the ability of youth under the age of 18 to work on Indiana farms. And if you think you're exempt because they work on your family farm, don't be so sure. That may not be the case.
"Farm Bureau has been vocal in opposition to this," says Megan Ritter, national policy specialist for Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. "We want farm youth to be safe, and we talk about farm safety a lot. We don't want children who aren't ready for it to be in dangerous situations. However, we think the rule as proposed would be very restrictive."
If the current language proposed by the Department of Labor is put into effect, youth under the age of 18 would no longer be able to operate a tractor or do many other jobs on the farm, Ritter notes. Some activities would be restricted to those over 16, but any activity qualified as hazardous by the Department of Labor would mean that the individual would need to be 18 years of age.
This means you couldn't hire a 17-year old neighbor boy to run your chisel plow in the fall. It even means that if the boy is your nephew or the girl is your niece, you couldn't have them drive a tractor for you if they're not 18.
What's more, if you're set up in a corporation which involves more than one person, the young person couldn't work for the corporation either. The only exception is if you're a sole proprietor and your son or daughter work for you.
Here's how picky the state language gets: if dad and granddad farm together, but granddad does crops and dad mainly does livestock, dad's son under 18 couldn't drive the tractor for granddad. The only way someone under 18 could get around any of these situations is if they take a nine-hour safety course. Then they would still have to be supervised, Ritter says. Exactly what supervised means is not clear.Make your objections and comments heard now. At this point, Ritter says the only way to comment is by visiting the www.regulations.gov Website. To learn more about the proposed rule changes and instructions on how to send a comment, visit the Indiana Farm Bureau Website at: www.infarmbureau.org.