Monday, June 21, 2010

Advocacy groups are trying to pass legislation that wouldn't allow children to work on farms.

HR 3564, or the Children's Act for Responsible Employment, also called CARE, currently before Congress, would eliminate the Fair Labor Standards Act exemption that currently allows kids 12-17 to work on farms as long as conditions are safe and parents give their consent. Minors would only be allowed to work on their parents farms under the direct supervision of one of the parents or other legal guardians. There are no exceptions allowed for non farm youth for things like 4-H and other educational programs.

Ron Gaskill is the Immigration and Labor Specialist for the American Farm Bureau Federation. Gaskill believes most folks in agriculture currently aren't even aware this bill is out there and he says that it is moving very quietly and he thinks that's on purpose.

"It predominately comes from youth advocates and labor advocates, human rights advocates who are determined that there are certain parts of the farm lifestyle that aren't healthy or safe for kids," Gaskill said. "They are really focusing more on a lifestyle; that is the migrant farm family lifestyle and those type of issues, but they are automatically suggesting that the solution to those problems are basically to prevent youth from working on farms."

Gaskill says this bill simply goes way too far in trying to protect immigrant children from working on farms. He says it's another example of non-ag groups trying to influence ag policy, and it's frustrating.

"They have no appreciation for what really happens and what really goes on," Gaskill said. "They have this perception, this picture that's painted by advocates that clearly have an agenda and of course in this particular case Human Rights Watch is one of those organizations that has an agenda. The agenda may be laudable in certain parts of society, but I think it is misguided in this particular case."

Gaskill encourages people in agriculture to call their representatives as soon as possible and urge them to vote against this measure.

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