Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt have joined the fight against a U.S. Department of Labor proposed rule pertaining to child labor laws on Kansas family farms.
They sent a letter to the department on Dec. 1, expressing concern that the rule as written would have a negative effect on youth seeking to work in Kansas agriculture – the state's largest industry. Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman, Secretary of Commerce Pat George and Secretary of Labor Karin Brownlee voiced similar concerns in a separate letter.
Among other restrictions, the proposed rule would prohibit 14- and 15-year-old farm workers from operating almost any power-driven equipment, including farm tractors and lawn mowers, regardless of safety training completed, and prohibit youth from working with certain types of animals.
"The learning opportunities provided by working in agriculture are second to none," Gov. Brownback said. "Spending time of a farm or ranch teaches young people the value of hard work and instills in them a respect for land and animals. Unfortunately, this proposed rule reduces the potential for young people to take advantage of safe, educational and legal work opportunities in agriculture. The proposed rule would also have a significant negative effect on the education and leadership experiences offered through 4-H, FFA and agricultural education."
Brownback and Schmidt say they both benefited from spending time working on family members' farms. However, the proposed rule threatens this Kansas tradition.
"This proposed regulation is a one-size-fits-all bureaucratic assault on rural culture," Attorney General Schmidt said. "If this had been the law when I was a kid working on my grandpa's farm, a formative part of my childhood would have been illegal."
In addition to the short-term benefits of farm jobs for youth, training is especially important for young people who hope to develop a career owning or managing a farm or ranch, Brownback and Schmidt stated.
"This country was built on agriculture and the strength of the country still depends on the agriculture industry," Secretary Rodman said. "This regulation would have a detrimental effect on this critical industry."
Brownback, Schmidt, Rodman, George and Brownlee encouraged the U.S. Department of Labor to revise the proposed rule taking into account the structure of farms today and the value of traditional on-farm training for youth.