County presidents showed their passion when talking to lawmakers about a rule that will change what tasks children under 16 can do on farms.
The U.S. Department of Labor published a notice Sept. 2 that would expand a number of existing hazardous occupation regulations as they pertain to the employment of youths under 16.
The proposal would change how the department interprets the existing parental exemption for family farms, and restricts the ability of youth to work on common farm equipment, such as tractors.
Opponents say the proposal would limit the ability of youth to gain real-life experience working on the farm.
The proposal would restrict a youth’s ability to work with livestock, and it expands the list of prohibited equipment with which youth may work. It also has the potential of limiting, if not prohibiting, youth under 16 working in orchards and fields harvesting fruits and vegetables.
The county presidents weren’t shy about telling legislators why such a proposal is detrimental to Ohio farmers.
The presidents told stories of how they worked on the family farm as a child and now their children and grandchildren are doing so. They voiced concerns the regulation would mean that youth would not be able to help on the farm or even earn extra money during summer months doing farm work.
Trumbull County Farm Bureau president Mark Bockelman told an aide for Rep. Tim Ryan, D-17th, the proposal will ruin his business. Bockelman owns a nursery business and hires youth to assist in the operation.
Portage County Farm Bureau president Stephen Heppe said the legislation will stop the progression of family farms through the generations. He said that if the children of farming families don’t learn certain skills on the farm, when they get to be adults, they won’t be able to farm and it will mean the end of the family farm.
Republican Rep. Bill Johnson met with the county presidents in his current district and also invited the presidents from counties that will be joining the district.
“I grew up on a farm as a kid. What the Department of Labor is trying to do is just plain Washington silliness,” Johnson said as he described what he thinks of the proposed regulation.
Rep. Bob Latta, R-5th, told the group he is very much against the regulations being considered by the Department of Labor.
“They are trying to impose their value systems on us, and it won’t work,” Latta said.
Defiance County president David Clinker told Latta that if a child’s parents are living on the farm but the grandparents still own it, the proposal would mean that the children would not be able to do any type of work on it because their parents are not the owners.
“The kids won’t even be able to work on it even though they have been born and raised on it,” Clinker said.
Latta responded sympathetically to the group.
“How many of these people have set foot on a farm — that’s what scares me and they think they know what is best,” said Latta.
For more on what happened on the Hill, click here.