The opportunity as a kid to work on my family farm was something I treasure. It instilled in me a passion for agriculture, an understanding of the value of hard work, and most importantly a bond with my father that otherwise would not exist. Kids everywhere deserve to learn those same life lessons.
In 2012, Farm Bureau members worked diligently to defend the family farm and ensure children raised on farms and ranches and in rural communities have the same opportunities to share the unique learning experiences agriculture offers. Through the power of an orchestrated and strong grassroots presence, Farm Bureau members compelled the U.S Department of Labor (DOL) to withdraw a proposed rulemaking relating to child labor in agriculture. The rule would have severely restricted the situations in which young people could work on farms and ranches and limited the types of work they could do.
While this was a monumental success, I continue to hear many inaccurate comments about child labor, hear of an enforcement action by DOL because a farmer was not clear on what was allowed or required, or worse – hear of a tragedy because a child was performing a task he or she should not be doing. As important as preserving the agricultural learning experience for rural youth, farmers and ranchers must do everything they can to follow the law and ensure kids are safe by providing proper training and making everyone aware of the dangers that exist on the farm.
With safety and compliance with the law top of mind, I thought it was appropriate to provide a refresher of current Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) farm youth labor laws and corresponding DOL regulations.
The FLSA provides an exception for all youth—regardless of age—who are employed by their parent or person standing in place of his or her parent on a farm owned or operated by such parent or person. Therefore, if you own or operate a farm, your child can legally perform any task regardless of age. This exemption extends to a “person standing in place of the parent,” defined as a person who takes a child into his or her home and treats the child as part of their own family, including educating and supporting the child. It also has been extended to the hiring of the children of certain managers (under manager supervision) who have been found to be “operating” the farm. Congress intended this exemption to protect the family farm. Also, Congress understood that parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts are not going to place that child in any danger by doing a task they are not mentally or physically able and ready to do, regardless of whether it is legal to do so.
In the FLSA, Congress gave DOL the authority to designate certain tasks as “particularly hazardous.” Therefore it is illegal to have nonfamily members (see the parental exemption discussed below) working on the farm under the age of 16 performing these tasks:
Please note, the information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. In addition, this is a review of federal law. State laws may impose stricter requirements.
Kristi Boswell is director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation. She specializes in agricultural labor.