Cochran, Wicker Praise Demise of Proposed Youth Farm Worker Regulations

Senators Had Cosponsored Bill to Halt Labor Dept.’s Overreaching Farm Labor Restrictions

April 27, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today praised the Obama administration’s decision to abandon its effort to impose new federal regulations on youth farm labor.

The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday evening informed congressional lawmakers that it would withdraw its proposed rule limiting children from working on farms and ranches.  Cochran and Wicker were among the Senators who have argued against the far-reaching and highly-controversial proposal following its unveiling last fall.

“This is as complete a retreat from a flawed proposal as one might have hoped for,” Cochran said.  “The proposed rule has from the beginning represented another example of this administration’s pattern of overreaching on regulations and highlighted a complete lack of understanding of how a family farm operates.  With the rule’s withdrawal, farmers and ranchers can get back to work without the burden of added farm labor regulations.”

“For generations, young people across Mississippi have helped on family farms,” said Wicker.  “While I am glad the Labor Department has decided to abandon this ill-conceived rule, the potential ban serves as a reminder of how far some bureaucrats in Washington are willing to go to regulate all aspects of American life.”

In its statement to congressional offices, the Labor Department indicated that its retreat from the rule was the result of an outpouring of public comments expressing concern about the labor regulation changes.  It also stressed that “this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.”

In lieu of the regulations, the Labor Department indicated that it would now “work with rural stakeholders—such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H—to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agriculture working practices.”

In March, Cochran and Wicker were original cosponsors on the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act (S.2221), legislation to prohibit the Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis from finalizing or implementing controversial reforms to federal regulations governing child labor on farms.  The bill garnered 44 cosponsors.

The Labor Department last September unveiled draft regulations that would affect the ability of youth to work on farms or ranches.  Under growing pressure from agriculture interests and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Secretary Solis in early February agreed to rewrite a portion of the regulation dealing with children working on family-owned farms.  Before withdrawing the entire proposed rule, the Department had intended to continue to promote new restrictions on paid, non-family farm youth employment.