WASHINGTON -- Under pressure from farm groups, the Labor Department has agreed to modify a plan intended to keep children away from some of the most dangerous farm jobs.
The proposal now will include broader exemptions for children whose parents are part owners or operators of farms, or have a substantial interest in a farm partnership or corporation. The rules would ban children younger than 16 from using most power-driven equipment and prevent those younger than 18 from working in feed lots, grain bins and stockyards.
Farm groups complained that the initial rules -- proposed last year -- would affect farms where children often work alongside their parents and relatives.
The rule's original language exempted youths only on farms wholly owned or operated by their parents.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said her agency would work with the Agriculture Department to ensure that the rules reflect the concerns of rural communities.
"The Department of Labor appreciates and respects the role of parents in raising their children and assigning tasks and chores to their children on farms," Solis said in a statement.
American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman called the decision a positive step, but predicted the rules still would have "a detrimental effect on family farms." He said they would create an even tighter supply of farm labor that is already in short supply.
"Laws and regulations need to be sensible and within reason, not prohibiting teenagers from performing simple everyday farm functions like operating a battery-powered screwdriver," Stallman said.