Dec 27, 2011
Senate raises bipartisan objections to new farm labor regulations

Obama’s Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, has created new regulations for farming safety that would bar children under 16 from much of the work of agriculture. The rules would keep them from “agricultural work with animals and in pesticide handling, timber operations, manure pits and storage bins” or from handling most types of “power-driven equipment” as well as being involved in the “cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco.” Solis explained, “Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America. Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department, and this proposal is another element of our comprehensive approach.”

The regulations have produced a truly bipartisan uproar in the Senate. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) have led the charge — joined by 28 of their colleagues. These include Democrats who usually support President Obama, such as Herb Kohl (Wis.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Ken Conrad (N.D.), and Claire McCaskill (Mo.). In a letter to Secretary Solis, the Senators requested that “the Department withdraw the proposed rule immediately until such time as it can substantiate that any proposed changes to current [Agriculture Hazardous Orders] will significantly improve youth safety, while at the same time prevent significant adverse economic impacts on rural employers.” The New American

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