Assemblyman Will Barclay (R, C, I – Pulaski) today hailed a recent decision by the U.S. Department of Labor, but stressed that changes to existing labor regulations could negatively impact Central New York farming communities. On Feb. 1, the federal Department of Labor took a step back from proposed changes to the “parental exemption” on farm child labor in order to re-examine them in light of mounting criticism. These new guidelines drew criticism on many fronts, including from the New York Farm Bureau and the National Milk Producers Federation.
“While I’m pleased to see that the Department of Labor has decided not to go through with changes to the parental exemption on farm labor, I am concerned that any new regulations could prove detrimental to our farming families,” said Barclay. “The department’s proposals would have prevented children from working on farms owned by their grandparents or other relatives, as well as cripple the valuable services provided by youth programs such as 4-H. Working on family and community farms has been a hallmark of our communities and with farming labor in short supply as it is, new restrictions would only undermine this essential industry even further.”
The parental exemption was created by Congress in 1966 and allowed for children under the age of 16 to perform any job on a farm owned or operated by a parent or guardian. The new regulations suggested by the Department of Labor would potentially ban children from working on farms whose ownership is more complicated, an increasing trend in the farming industry, as well as impose limitations on operating machinery and working around livestock.