Labor dept. backs off rule to limit farm work by kids

The U.S. Department of Labor is withdrawing a rule that would have limited the sorts of work that children can do on farms.

The proposed rule led to criticism from Minnesota farmers who said it would have disrupted life on family farms.

Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson said the formal withdrawal of the rule was a "win for family farmers."

"The issue was that the Department of Labor didn't fully understand how farms actually worked and what roles kids actually had in farming labor," Peterson said. "It's a success, frankly, to find out that now they've realized they didn't have it right and pulled back."

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

Peterson said the Department of Labor should have asked farmers before proposing the rule.

A statement issued Thursday by the Department of Labor attributed the withdrawal of the rule to "thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms."

The Department of Labor backed off the rule in February. The department now said it will not pursue the regulation again during Pres. Barack Obama's administration.

The agency plans to work with national farmers groups and chapters of 4-H to increase the safety of children working on farms.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn, said his office communicated extensively with the Department of Labor about the proposed rule.

"I think this is a good outcome," Franken said. "They realized they needed to be working with farm groups and not doing it so much as regulations as a safety program because, as I said, no one cares more about their kids' safety."