What you should know about the proposed Fair Labor Standards Act

UPDATE (April 27, 2012) : The U.S. Department of Labor has withdrawn the proposed regulations that would have affected our educational programs. Thanks to everyone who took the time to contact their legislators and share this information with friends. You truly made a difference!

The DOL’ s 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 decision to withdraw this rule – including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption’ – was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.

Instead, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will 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 agricultural working practices.

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In September 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed new regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that would affect the ability of farmers and ranchers to hire youth to work in agriculture.

Though some aspects of the proposed regulations may have an adverse effect on some of our educational programs, they do not seek to eliminate FFA.

The Department of Labor’s primary concern is for the safety of America’s youth and we share that concern. We have had a very successful working relationship with this administration, especially with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and USDE Secretary Arne Duncan. We believe that we and other agricultural education organizations can successfully work with the Department of Labor to ensure that the proposed regulations do not adversely affect learning opportunities for students.

The Department of Labor gave FFA and other organizations the opportunity to share with them comments and concerns about the proposal.  Here are some of the issues we asked the department to consider before finalizing the rulemaking process:

  • The proposed regulations as they are currently written could have an adverse impact on Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs).  SAEs are a key experiential learning program, in which students work for pay on farms under the supervision of highly-qualified and certified agriculture teachers.  SAEs provide safe learning environments where students can learn the skills they need to succeed in the agriculture industry. As educators it is important for us to have opportunities to teach our students how to be safe when working on farms.  Limiting our ability to do so will not allow us to adequately prepare young people for future careers in agriculture.
  • The proposed regulations as they are currently written will allow only immediate family members of a farm’s owners to work on the farm. Many of our students have opportunities to work on farms that are not owned by their parents or legal guardians.  Farms owned by grandparents, uncles/aunts, siblings and other relatives provide excellent opportunities for students to gain work experience in agriculture.  Friends and neighbors may provide excellent work experience opportunities to students.  While we appreciate the parental exemption in the current regulations, we believe it should be expanded to include farms owned by other relatives, neighbors and even corporations, as long as the student’s parents or guardians approve.
  • We believe it’s important that the Student Learner Exemption currently provided in the Fair Labor Standards Act include school-based agricultural and career and technical education programs. Nearly a million students are enrolled in these programs across the United States and its territories.  Some 7,500 such programs are available through primarily public high schools, and instruction is provided by 11,000 highly qualified teachers certified to teach agriculture.  These programs play a critical role in educating young people and introducing them to careers in agriculture and agricultural science.

If you’re concerned about the impact these proposed regulations could have on an FFA chapter in your community, you can help by contacting your state’s senators and representatives and asking them to support  the Preserving America’s Family Farms Act ( H.R. 4157.)

You can find contact information for your senators and representative’s through the NAAE Legislative Action Center.

8 comments on “What you should know about the proposed Fair Labor Standards Act

  1. please note that the family farm would not include a farm that has been put into an LLP or any typ of partnership even if it is with family. So your childern could not work for parents.

  2. Pingback: New Fair Labor Act information Vital to Family Farms « Hands of a Farmer

  3. This is just an out right threat to our children’s future. I will not support such an extention of Federal regulations to hinder my family’s ablities to Farm / Ranch….

  4. This law as it is written goes farther than just this issue. No child will be able to be around breeding livestock such as bulls over 18mo. For any of this young adults that are showing animals it will hinder them greatly. Also they may not be around livestock auctions so for the FFA and 4H students that are showing and selling market animals they would not be allowed to do this. Our youth are sought out in the work place because of their work ethics. They have a work ethic because we allow and encourage them to work. This whole bill is frightneing.

  5. This truly is a frightening proposal. And for all those who believe it doesn’t affect them because they don’t have a farm or ranch, they really need to examine it. It will not only add one more obstacle to already struggling farms and ranches, but it’s also just a stepping stone to other government intrusion into family life. What other jobs will they go after next? Eventually, we will “protect” our children to the point of their ultimate destruction. I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of hardwork and farm life for not only my family, but for those youth who have spent summers working on a farm or ranch – even 30 years later, every one of them says it changed their lives for the better no matter what careers they have chosen. Rather than restricting work on the farm, we should be mandating that every child spend one summer working on a farm or ranch.

    • We have to stand up for what we believe…what we love…what we need and most of all…what has worked for all these years!! Our families from years past that have had to plow the lands and pick the cotton…milk the cows…gather the eggs…and all that goes along with being a farmer ir a rancher…would roll over in there graves to know this may be happening!! Sooo SAD!!!! ))0′;

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