In February the Labor Department seemingly backed away from what many had called an unrealistic reach into farmers’ families, reopening the public comment period on a section of the regulations designed to give parents an exemption for their own children. But U.S. farmers’ largest trade group is unimpressed.
“American Farm Bureau does not view that as a victory,” said Kristi Boswell, a labor specialist with the American Farm Bureau Federation. “It’s a misconception that they have backed off on the parental exemption.” That narrow “parental exception” has quickly become a political football in U.S. agriculture. The Farm Bureau and one other national agricultural group told TheDC that it would only apply to parents who “wholly own” their own farms.
That would rule out kids working on an uncle’s farm, or a grandfather’s, and it would ban teens from working on farms where ownership is split — even among several generations of the same family. It would also mean teens couldn’t be around when their friends are doing farm work.
Estimates vary on the number of children who live on farms their parents ”wholly own.” One state-level Farm Bureau cited an internal estimate of less than 30 percent. That number, the organization said, takes into account the fact that many farms in animal agriculture are part-owned by the large food companies that ultimately purchase the mat after slaughter.