Is The Obama Administration Sticking Its Nose Into Farm Chores?

Posted Apr 26; updated May 2. According to the DailyCaller, Sarah Palin and a host of conservative politicos, the answer is yes. But what, exactly, does the rulemaking proposal say?

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  1. Update: Obama Administration pulls the rules.
  2. Original story:
  3. But is that what the regulations say? [Oh, and why is this "news" today?]

    The only link in the Daily Caller article is to a DOL August 31, 2011 press release, which clearly states that there is a "complete exemption for youths employed on farms owned by their parents."
  4. Not content to read the press release, I also checked out the actual rulemaking proposal. (What a concept. Primary sources.)
  5. "The proposal would implement specific recommendations made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, increase parity between the agricultural and nonagricultural child labor provisions, and also address other areas that can be improved, which were identified by the Department's own enforcement actions. The proposed agricultural revisions would impact only hired farm workers and in no way compromise the statutory child labor parental exemption involving children working on farms owned or operated by their parents (emphasis added)."
  6. The Daily Caller isn't alone its hyperbole. Former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, on Facebook:
  7. It's great link bait, as Twitter demonstrates (S.E. Cupp and David Burge each have 50+ retweets):
  8. Can we agree that "chores" are parent-driven and not work-for-hire?  
  9. If so, can we then agree that both The Daily Caller author and Palin have misrepresented the rule (and stirred up the base in the process)?
  10. What about incorporated farms?


    The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau claims that the rule would not provide an exemption for family farms that are incorporated:


    "Farm Bureau notes that DOL claims its “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” will not change the “parental exemption” in the current law, but Farm Bureau says DOL’s new language would not include an exemption for farms that are incorporated or formed as family partnerships."


    I am not a lawyer, but if the rule says it does not affect existing law, then I need more than a claim with no evidence from an advocacy group known for protesting just about any regulation relating to farming. (I lived in PA in the 1980s, where I worked in agriculture and water resources issues and dealt with the PFB.)

    "The parental exemption for the owner or operator of a farm is statutory and cannot be eliminated through the regulatory process..for children working on farms that are registered as LLCs, but operated solely by their parents, the parental exemption would still apply." 
  11. Finally, in February DOL said it was revisiting this portion of the rule (one assumes in order to make it crystal clear that the rule can't change the statute):

    "On February 1, 2012, the Department announced that it will re-propose the portion of its regulation on child labor in agriculture interpreting the "parental exemption." The parental exemption allows children of any age who are employed by their parent, or a person standing in the place of a parent, to perform any job on a farm owned or operated by their parent or such person standing in the place of a parent. 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."
  12. Why now?

    Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) wrote about this last week:
  13. "Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and I have introduced legislation to prevent the Labor Department from implementing its controversial proposed restrictions on youth working on family farms..If the federal government can regulate the relationship between parents and their children on their own farm, virtually nothing seems off limits when it comes to government intrusion into our lives."

    Like Palin and the DailyCaller, Thune and Moran are using hyperbole to stir emotions in an election year. (Neither are running for re-election, however.)
  14. Why new regulations?


    The Fair Labor Standards Act (1938) has not been modified in 40 years. Why might there be changes proposed relating to agriculture? 

    It's because of risk.
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