The Obama administration initially agreed. Last year, the Labor Department began developing new regulations that would keep kids under the age of 16 away from heavy livestock, chemicals and pesticides, and big machinery.Progressive Farmer:
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis defended the effort before a congressional panel this spring in Washington.
SECRETARY HILDA SOLIS: But I do know that we have to protect and prevent any further injuries from young people that are working in settings that are not protected. We haven't upgraded the rule for 40 years.
MANN: But the effort infuriated farmers and their supporters in Congress, Democrats and Republicans. They argued that it made no sense to compare farms with fast food restaurants and retail outlets - the kind of places most teens work.
At that hearing, Senator Jerry Moran from Kansas blasted Solis, describing the regulations as an attack on farming and a traditional way of life.
SENATOR JERRY MORAN: If the federal government can regulate the kind of relationship between parents and their children on their own family's farm, there is almost nothing off-limit in which we see the federal government intruding in a way of life.
MANN: The Labor Department tried to address those concerns by promising to exempt children who work on farms owned by their own families. The new rules would only have affected the teenagers who work as paid employees, including children of migrant workers. That didn't satisfy farmers and late last month the Obama administration abruptly withdrew the regulations.
All of these deaths are tragic accidents, but note, all of these deaths were children on their own family's farm, which wouln't have even been regulated. I really can't believe farmers had a cow about regulations involving nonfamily children working on the farm, and I am stunned the Obama administration folded up over it. Pathetic all around.The deaths of three children and two teenagers in the past two weeks because of farm accidents serves as a brutal reminder of the importance of farm safety as summer approaches.Nebraska's Emily Guerra, age 2, died when she fell off a spooked horse while her father was helping to brand calves. Austin Reuter, a 7-year-old from Iowa, died after an ATV rolled over him during evening chores, and Travis Flory, a 3-year-old in Wisconsin, was killed when he was accidentally run over by a skid steer his brother was driving.