Child labor on tobacco farms became quite a controversial issue in 2014, and two organizations of tobacco farmers took a stand objecting to any use of hired child labor in leaf production.
At the beginning of October, the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina went on record as opposing hired child labor on U.S. tobacco farms.
“While we do not believe that tobacco fields are inherently unsafe for qualified persons who receive proper training and personal protective equipment, we recognize that there are particular risks associated with working in tobacco,” says the TGANC resolution.
Accordingly, the TGANC adopts the following policy:
“TGANC does not condone the use of child labor and believes tobacco growers, and farm labor contractors should not employ workers younger than 16 years of age for work in tobacco, even with parental permission. If growers elect to employ 16- and 17-year-olds, the employee should provide express written parental permission.”
But this policy does not apply to members of a grower’s family who work on their farms under direct and specific parental supervision.
“Children of the family farm represent a unique circumstance in regards to child labor,” said the association's resolution. “Their engagement or related activities in a family farming perspective is a lifestyle for them as opposed to a vocation. Passing down strong agricultural values to the next generation is a key to ensuring productive and successful farms for the future.”
The Council for Burley Tobacco had previously resolved that it does not condone the hiring of anyone under the age of 16 for work in tobacco anywhere in the world. “Burley farmers in the United States understand the dangers burley production jobs pose to children and (believe) the incidence of children working in tobacco production is low in this country.”
The leader of TGANC asked in October why this is suddenly an issue. Tim Yarbrough of Prospect Hill, N.C., said, “The modern tobacco operations in our state today find it difficult to rely on such labor anyway. The use of more mechanization and extended growing season means there is increasingly less for kids to do like there was 25 years ago.”