Efforts to stop illegal child labor could end up hurting family farms, according to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.
The Department of Labor wants to update its regulations for the first time in 40 years in an effort to safeguard children who work on farms.
"Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America," the agency says on its website. "The fatality rate for young agricultural workers is four times greater than that of their peers employed in nonagricultural workplaces."
Under the proposed rules:
- No one under the age of 16 would be allowed to work with power driven vehicles.
- No one under 18 would be permitted to work at stockyards and storage bins.
- Children would not be allowed to be around pesticides.
- Children could not handle most animals older than 6 months old.
Labor Department officials say the restrictions would not apply to children who do chores on farms owned by their parents.
But the Wisconsin Farm Bureau said these new rules would apply to family farms, which are often set up as corporations. Many farmers find it is to their advantage to incorporate.
Consequently, farmers fear the restrictions would make it difficult to stay in business.
The Department of Labor is taking public comments on the proposed rules through Thursday.