The American Horse Council (AHC) has opposed the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed new child labor regulations applicable to agriculture. The proposed rule, if adopted, would place new limitations on the ability of young people to work for pay on farms or ranches not owned solely by their parents and would effectively bar workers under 16 from working in most capacities in agriculture, especially around livestock, such as horses.
“The safety of young workers is important, but these proposed rules are so broad they would keep most young people from working on horse farms and ranches at all,” said AHC President Jay Hickey. “For over 70 years Congress has explicitly allowed young people to work in agricultural because of its unique and family nature. We believe, as written, this proposed rule is contrary to Congressional intent.”
In comments submitted to the DOL the AHC focused on the parts of the proposed rule that it believes are overly broad, such as prohibitions on workers under 16 herding livestock on horseback or foot in confined spaces and engaging in most common animal husbandry practices. The AHC also highlighted the special role young people play in the horse community and raised concerns regarding new limitations on the parental exemption that could impact family farms and ranches. The complete AHC comments can be found on the AHC’s website at http://www.horsecouncil.org/sites/default/files/AHC%20%20Comments%20Child%20Labor%20Regulations_0.pdf
“Members of the horse community do not employ young people simply because they need workers. In most instances, they employ young people to give them the same opportunities they had to learn and do something they love,” said AHC Legislative Director Ben Pendergrass. “Young people don’t go to work on horse farms and ranches only for a pay check, but because of a desire to learn about and be around horses and to follow the traditions of their families. This experience often leads to later careers as veterinarians, horse trainers, breeders and farriers or other agricultural pursuits. This proposed rule would deny most young people such an experience. ”
The AHC urged the DOL to revisit the proposed rule after reviewing comments from the agricultural community and either retain existing regulations, or propose a rule that recognizes the original Congressional intent that youth be able to productively work in agriculture with adequate protections.
“This proposed rule is not acceptable to the agricultural community. Right now a bipartisan group of Senators and Congressmen are asking the DOL to withdraw this rule and start over or keep existing regulations,” said Hickey. “We support their efforts and urge all members of the horse community to contact their members of Congress and let them know they oppose this DOL proposed rule.”