Letter Asks For Comment Period Extension on DOL child Labor Proposal

Print Version

Published: October 7, 2005
 
Updated: December 2, 2011
 

Wage and Hour Division
U.S. Department of Labor
Room S-3502
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210

RE: RIN 1235–AA06 Child Labor Regulations, Orders and Statements of Interpretation; Child Labor Violations – Civil Money Penalties; Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Request for Comments

Dear Sir or Madam:

On Sept. 2, 2011, the Department of Labor published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would make significant and sweeping changes to regulations issued under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The proposal, which would significantly curtail the employment opportunities available to youth working in U.S. agriculture, has generated an enormous degree of concern within the agriculture community.

Shortly before the comment deadline, the department received a number of requests to extend the comment period in recognition of the sweeping nature of the proposed changes and the difficulty of stakeholders in analyzing and responding to the department's proposal. Many of the undersigned organizations sent a letter to the department, dated Oct. 18, 2011, requesting a minimum extension of 60 days. Nearly contemporaneous with our request, the department received other requests for extension. These included a letter dated Oct. 14, 2011 from several livestock organizations requesting a 90-day extension of the comment period; a bipartisan letter dated Oct. 24, 2011 from over 70 members of the House requesting a 60-day extension of the comment period; and a bipartisan letter dated Oct.25, 2011 signed by over 30 members of the Senate requesting a 60-day extension of the comment period. While the undersigned organizations commend the department for extending the comment period, we note that the additional 30 days fell well short of our original request and bipartisan congressional requests.

There is a strong and increasing conviction among those in the rural and agricultural sectors that the department's effort to abridge the employment rights of youth in agriculture may well go beyond its statutory authority. It is our view that the department's characterization of the parental exemption and how it is enforced may go well beyond the authority granted it by Congress and may also contradict earlier interpretations of the exemption made by the department. Furthermore, it appears that the department's intent, rather than merely protecting youth from "particularly hazardous" occupations, is to limit the economic and educational opportunities youth are afforded in agricultural employment.

We are, however, still grappling with the details of the department's proposal and require additional time to analyze the proposal in depth. Accordingly, we are asking the department once again to extend the comment period by a minimum of 60 days in order to grant us time to analyze the proposal, its impact on farmers and ranchers across the country, the effect on longstanding educational training opportunities for youth, and the impact it may have on farm families.

Respectfully,

Agribusiness Association of Iowa
Agricultural Retailers Association
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Feed Industry Association
American Horse Council
American Seed Trade Association
American Soybean Association
American Sugar Alliance
Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE)
CropLife America
Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association
MASLabor LLC
Minnesota Crop Production Retailers
National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE)
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
National Association of Supervisors of Agricultural Education
NASAE)
National Corn Growers Association
National Cotton Council
National Cotton Ginners Association
National Council for Agricultural Education (NCAE)
National Council of Agricultural Employers
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
National Farm & Ranch Business Management Education
Association (NFRBMEA)
National FFA Organization
National FFA Alumni Association
National FFA Foundation
National Grain and Feed Association
National Milk Producers Federation
National Pork Producers Council (NPPC)
National Young Farmer Education Association (NYFEA)
New England Apple Council
Rocky Mountain Agribusiness Association
Society for American Florists
South Dakota Grain & Feed Association
Texas Grain & Feed Association
United Fresh Produce Association
USA Rice Federation
Wisconsin Agri-service Association