Obama Administration Caves on New Child Labor Farm Laws

President Obama has once again caved to political pressure from Republicans, but this time farming groups were also behind the White House’s decision to drop new regulations proposed last year that would have stopped minors from performing certain agricultural work believed to be too dangerous for children.

“The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations,” the Labor Department said in a statement.

While the move pleased conservatives and agricultural groups, it was criticized by workplace and child safety advocates who say the White House is caving to anti-regulatory politics.

“It’s very discouraging. I didn’t see this happening this way,” says Mary Miller, a clinical professor at the University of Washington School of Nursing.

“Anyone who’s anti-regulation, this was an easy thing to latch on to.” she added.

Family farms would not have been affected by the new rules as they would have been exempted, but that didn’t stop the regulations opponents from casting them as an assault on family farms and rural traditions. The new set of rules would have only banned minors, who were formally employed and on farm payrolls, from operating heavy machinery, handling tobacco crops, working in grain silos or performing other jobs considered potentially dangerous.

Many politicians from rural states had called the proposals a federal overreach that would hurt small family farms.

In actuality not only would the rules not have banned minors from doing family farm work, they would have been able to do work deemed potentially dangerous on family farms, due to a parental exemption.

Child farmer advocate from the non-profit Association of Farmworker Opportunity,Norma Flores Lopez, told The Huffington Post that the rules were “common sense” and would have helped protect children who work as migrants, not because of tradition but because their families need money.

“We felt that these were commonsense protections that maintained the traditions of family farms and would have saved many kids’ lives. We’re sad about it,” said Lopez, who herself was a migrant worker as a child. “All the misinformation being put out there was really misrepresenting what these rules were. The benefits were overshadowed. The ones who will be paying for that is kids.”

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