Farmers Worried About Federal Law Change

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New York farmers are pushing the U.S. Department of Labor to abandon plans to revamp youth employment guidelines for teenagers that they say will hurt their kids’ employment opportunities, Gannett’s Aaron Scholder reported yesterday.

The New York Farm Bureau, the Albany-based advocacy group that represents the industry in the state, said at a press conference on Thursday that the proposed changes to the guidelines are telling farmer parents how to raise their kids.

“We had over 10,000 comments submitted nationally that were sent to the Department of Labor opposing this particular prohibition … so this issue is of extreme importance to New York’s family farms,” said Julie Suarez, the director of public policy for the Farm Bureau.

The proposed changes would affect 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds who work on family farms in prohibiting what they can work on. Among the changes to what are called the “hazardous occupations orders” is a ban on any type of physical contact with any “power-driven” equipment, which is anything not operated with a hand or foot.

The Farm Bureau said such restrictions would prohibit children from completing simple tasks such as washing a refrigerator at a farm stand or using a battery-powered flashlight.

“This is one of those rules that doesn’t make sense. It shows a lack of understanding on the part of the government about what’s happening on the ground,” said Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, who added that he signed off on bi-partisan legislation in Washington to prevent the guideline changes.

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