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Fed backs off child labor on farms

DANIEL LOOKER 04/27/2012 @ 11:08am Business Editor

Thursday evening the Obama Administration announced that it is withdrawing a proposed rule that would have restricted child labor on farms that drew strong criticism from rural areas.

According to a Department of Labor (DOL) statement, “The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations.  The Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations."  

“As a result, the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations," the statement says.

The Department said the Administration won't pursue the rule for the rest of Obama's term in office.

Still, one of the leading critics of the rule, Senator John Thune, said he will keep fighting the rule until it is "completely put to rest." Thune introduced a bill in March to keep the rule from being put into effect. His bill has 46 cosponsors, including five Democrats.

“I am pleased to hear the Obama Administration is finally backing away from its absurd 85 page proposal to block youth from participating in family farm activities and ultimately undermine the very fabric of rural America, but I will continue working to ensure this overreaching proposal is completely and permanently put to rest,” said Thune. “The Obama DOL’s youth farm labor rule is a perfect example of what happens when government gets too big.”

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) said in a statement that he was disappointed that the rule has been completely withdrawn instead of revising it.

“Although the Child Labor rule has been withdrawn, we cannot walk away from our obligation to protect vulnerable workers, especially children," Harkin said. "The regulations have not been updated in 40 years, and we have learned a lot about farm safety since then. I am disappointed that the administration chose to walk away from regulations that were, at their core, about protecting children and which could have been revised to correct some of the initial proposals that generated the most concern. I know from my discussions with farmers throughout Iowa that we can both protect children and ensure the success of family farms  and I will continue to work to protect both in our state.”

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