Senators Kirk, Roberts, Burr, Isakson Request Hearing on the Department of Labor’s Proposed Rules for Youth Agriculture Workers

WASHINGTON, DC –(ENEWSPF)—March 8, 2012.  United States Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) today sent a letter to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), requesting a hearing on the United States Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed rules for youth working in agriculture. The proposed rules would limit the ways in which youth can work on family farms and will have widespread impact on farming operations, ranches, agricultural education programs and the longstanding tradition of youth working in agriculture. The hearing would provide an important opportunity for Department officials and industry stakeholders to offer input on the proposed rules. 

Today, a Kirk spokesperson released the following statement on behalf of the Senator:  

“Working on the family farm as a youth is an important part of developing the next generation of farmers. The proposed rules do not appropriately take into account that many family farms involve multiple generations, including uncles, aunts and grandparents, nor do the proposed rules adequately consider the responsibilities youth are commonly assigned. While it is important to evaluate the existing rules to ensure safety, it must be done thoughtfully and with significant input from stakeholders, including family farmers.” 

In support of the request for a hearing, Illinois Farm Bureau President Phillip Nelson released the following statement: 

“We would like to applaud Senator Kirk and his colleagues on their efforts to push for this hearing. Senator Kirk is well aware of the important part today’s youth play in developing the future generations of farmers and agriculture. Our members – and their children – are obviously very concerned that the proposed rule changes will eliminate children’s ability to learn farm safety on the farm, as well as limit their opportunity to work closely with immediate family members, including uncles, aunts and grandparents or complete 4-H and FFA projects.” 

In their letter, Senators Kirk, Roberts, Burr and Isakson reference that the Department of Labor has received over 10,000 comments expressing concern with the impact of the proposed rules. 

Below is the full text of the letter. The document can also be found online here.

Dear Chairman Harkin: 

We write to request the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hold a hearing on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (76 Fed. Reg. 54836) regarding youth workers in the agriculture industry. 

As members of the Committee, we are committed to ensuring the safety of all workers. We appreciate and support the Department’s efforts to promote and enforce safe workplaces across the country.

However, we are concerned with overly burdensome regulations promulgated by this Administration. The Department’s proposed rule would have far reaching consequences on farming operations, ranches, agricultural education programs, and the longstanding tradition of youth working in agriculture.  

We have heard repeatedly from our constituents that they are very concerned about the impact this unneeded proposed rule would place on their families and rural businesses. They also question the need for this new rule, as ensuring the safety and wellbeing of youth workers is their top priority. Furthermore, the Department has received over 10,000 comments from the American people regarding this proposed rule and we believe it is important for the Committee to exercise its oversight responsibilities in this manner. Therefore, we seek an opportunity to hear from Department officials as well as stakeholders regarding this proposed rule. 

Thank you for considering our request and we look forward to hearing your response.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Richard Burr

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts

Source: kirk.senate.gov