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Home » From the Commissioner

Farm Child Labor Announcement

New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food (February 11, 2012)

Bulletin readers may remember the “guidance document” published by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) last year, asking questions geared to new regulatory requirements for farm trucks and equipment on the nation’s roadways. The proposed additional requirements, including commercial drivers license provisions, were met with an outcry of protesting comments from farm organizations, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and others. In August, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the FMCSA would not propose new regulations governing the transport of agricultural products, and that the agency had released guidance to states so they clearly understand common-sense exemptions “to allow farmers, their employees, and their families to accomplish their day-to-day work and transport their products to market.”

Barely a month later, on September 2, 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor published and invited public comments on its proposed rule on child labor in agriculture. DOL said its proposed rule aimed to increase protections for children working in agriculture while preserving the benefits that safe and healthy work can provide. DOL’s Wage and Hour Division cited studies showing that children are significantly more likely to be killed or injured while performing agricultural work than while working in other industries. However, the proposal included numerous inaccuracies or outdated information, and made many less hazardous jobs off limits for youth. It also narrowed the exemption for the children of farmers so that only those on farms solely owned by the parents would qualify.

Farm and ranch families and employers, agricultural educators and organizations responded with an outpouring of comments. Late last week the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division announced that it will re-propose the portion of its regulation on child labor in agriculture interpreting the “parental exemption.”  It said the decision to re-propose is in part a response to requests from the public and members of Congress that the agency allow an opportunity for more input on this aspect of the rule.

While this decision will be welcomed by many in agriculture, there are numerous other aspects of the proposed rule of concern to many in the agricultural community. The Department of Labor explained in its announcement that it “recognizes the unique attributes of farm families and rural communities. The re-proposal process will seek comments and inputs as to how the department can comply with statutory requirements to protect children, while respecting rural traditions. The re-proposed portion of the rule is expected to be published for public comment by early summer. The department will continue to review the comments received regarding the remaining portions of the proposed rule for inclusion in a final rule.”

Until the revised exemption is final, the Wage and Hour Division will apply the parental exemption to situations in which the parent or person standing in the place of a parent is a part owner of the farm, a partner in a partnership or an officer of a corporation that owns the farm if the ownership interest in the partnership or corporation is substantial.

* * * * * *

            The largest crowds in many years came through the doors of the 2012 Farm & Forest Expo trade show last Friday and Saturday. More than 5,500 people attended this year’s event. Attendees donated a total of 733 pounds of food at the door for distribution by the NH Food Bank. The full roster of educational programs also drew good crowds, including more than 70 women filling a double room for the Women in Agriculture conference on Friday. New Hampshire has consistently ranked either number one or two in the country for women in farming, and that trend does not seem to be slowing.

Lorraine Merrill, Commissioner                                                                                               

(reprinted from Weekly Market Bulletin,  (Feb. 8, 2012)

 

SUBSCRIPTION NOTE:

The NH Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food Division of Agricultural Development compiles market information and publishes the Weekly Market Bulletin for the agriculture community. The Bulletin is the department’s ‘publication of record’ and includes appropriate industry notices, announcements, seasonal information and market survey data. Subscribers may advertise in the popular agricultural classified advertising at no charge. One-year subscriptions are $28 for delivery by U.S. Postal Service, or $22 for delivery by secure internet. Sign up for the Weekly Market Bulletin by calling the office at 271-2505 and providing a credit card for payment; or visit the office at 25 Capitol St., Concord; or mail in your request with a check. Be sure to provide your address, phone number, and if you are requesting an online subscription, an email address.

 

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