Family ranching is a tradition in eastern Montana and helping on the ranch generally starts from the time a child is small. In fact, most of the famous cowboys in who are noted as Cowboy Hall of Fame Legacy award winners started on their family homesteads and hired out by the age of 13. A proposed U.S. Department of Labor rule could put a stop to that … and a stop to families hiring their own children on their own incorporated operations. Congressman Denny Rehberg is trying to stop the move by the Department of Labor.
On Monday, Rehberg, today took the lead on a bipartisan letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asking her to extend the comment period for a proposed regulation that would undermine the ability of farmers and ranchers to hire young people to work on their farms. Rehberg, who is the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Department of Labor, submitted the letter with 77 other members of Congress after Montana ag groups contacted him with concerns about the rule.
Rehberg explained that at the core of the proposed rule is “…a simple question of who is best equipped to look out for the well being of our young farmers and ranchers. Some folks in Washington are inclined to think that government knows best, but I disagree. I think these sorts of decisions are best left to parents. It’s insulting to suggest that ag parents put their kids at risk and need the government to step in. The informed decisions of an involved parent will always be more important to me than the edicts of an unelected bureaucrat thousands of miles away.”
The Department of Labor has proposed significant changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that will severely impact the type of work young people are allowed to do on farms and ranches. While the FLSA already prevents young workers from doing some tasks, there has previously been sufficient flexibility within those rules to allow for the employment of young workers in agriculture.
Among the proposed changes would be a prohibition of hired workers under age 16 from working with some kinds of animals, in timber operations, and working around manure pits and storage bins. It would also prevent children under the age of 18 from working in grain elevators, feed lots, stockyards, and livestock exchanges and auctions.
Rehberg’s letter asks for a 60 day extension of the comment period for this proposed rule – to January 1, 2012.
Errol Rice, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association said “It is essential to the future of ranching in Montana that kids are able to work side by side with their parents and grandparents to learn what it takes to run the ranch. Also, important youth development and leadership programs like FFA and 4-H are built around opportunities to begin working in agriculture at a young age. This proposal would have broad implications for ranching in Montana and this needs much more analysis.”
Read about the rule and proposed penalties and comment by visiting http://www.regulations.gov and insert RIN 1235-AA06 into the search box.