Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Daily Caller is misleading you about family farm regulations

Some of my conservative friends are angry about this story in The Daily Caller:
The Department of Labor is poised to put the finishing touches on a rule that would apply child-labor laws to children working on family farms, prohibiting them from performing a list of jobs on their own families’ land.
Well, not quite. As documentation, the Caller links to this somewhat-vague press release from the Department of Labor announcing the proposed rules. The press release then says the actual rule will be published in the Federal Register on Sept. 2. So what does the Federal Register say?
The proposed agricultural revisions would impact only hired farm workers and in no way compromise the statutory child labor parental exemption involving children working on farms owned or operated by their parents.
This is at the very outset of the rule. It's hard to miss if you're bothering to look at it directly. Which means The Daily Caller A) didn't or B) did, but chose to ignore it.

A conservative friend protests: "What about farms owned by aunts or uncles?" Well, it turns out that hasn't strictly been allowed for a few decades. As the Federal Register notes:
Accordingly, application of the parental exemption in agriculture has been for over forty years limited to the employment of children exclusively by their parent(s) on a farm owned or operated by the parent(s) or person(s) standing in their place. Any other applications would render the parental safeguard ineffective. Only the owner or operator of a farm is in a position to regulate the duties of his or her child and provide guidance.
The Department has, for many years, considered that a relative, such as a grandparent or aunt or uncle, who assumes the duties and responsibilities of the parent to a child regarding all matters relating to the child's safety, rearing, support, health, and well- being, is a ``person standing in the place of'' the child's parent (see letter of Charles E. Wilson, Agricultural Safety Officer, Division of Youth Standards of April 7, 1971 to Mr. Floyd Wiedmeier). It does not matter if the assumption of the parental duties is permanent or temporary, such as a period of three months during the summer school vacation during which the youth resides with the relative (Id.). This enforcement position does not apply, however, in situations where the youth commutes to his or her relative's farm on a daily or weekend basis, or visits the farm for such short periods of time (usually less than one month) that the parental duties are not truly assumed by that relative.
Again: "None of the revisions proposed in this NPRM in any way change or diminish the statutory child labor parental exemption in agricultural employment"

In other words: If you are a farmer, and you're putting your kid to work on the farm, you can still put your kid to work on the farm. If you're a farmer and your niece comes to spend the summer with you, you can put that kid to work on the farm. According to the rules, it's been this way a very long time.

 What the rule does is make it harder to hire somebody else's under-16 kid to work on your farm. That's different. And it's worth debating the worthiness of that rule. But the idea that the Obama Administration is prohibiting kids from working on their families' farms? Not quite true.

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