If Congressman Denny Rehberg has his way, child labor rules will be relaxed in the name of the "family farm." He is the leading proponent of the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act, arguing that the "urban" Department of Labor is out to get "rural" America.
But the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act is not based in reality. The Labor Department regulations he's opposed to don't threaten the "family farm," only children hired by others.
Unsurprisingly, Rep. Rehberg receives campaign contributions from the agriculture lobby, the biggest opponents of child labor regulations:
According to an e-mail obtained by the Republic Report, the American Farm Bureau, a lobbying group associated with Monsanto, ConAgra, Tyson, and other large food manufacturers, “took the lead in bringing together a broad group of organizations” to file comments in opposition to the Department of Labor rule, and to encourage other members of Congress to back Rehberg’s request for delays.
This debate isn't over whether a child can work in a garden after school, helping pick some crops for sale. The Department of Labor's rules keep children away from dangerous situations like operating heavy machinery, working in manure sites, applying pesticides, and handling explosives.
Child labor on farms is a bigger problem than many know: nearly 16,000 youths under age 20 who live or work on a farm were injured, according to the most recent data. 10 to 15 years olds are the most likely to be hurt.
We have a public obligation to keep these children out of harms way. Unfortunately, it seems like some representatives have a stronger obligation to big agriculture.