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Oct 27, 2011   |  Senator Jon Tester

Tester encourages family farmers to comment on proposed labor regulation

Senator announces extension allowing farmers ‘a real say’ in ensuring teen safety

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is encouraging Montana’s family farmers comment on a proposed rule regarding the hiring of teenagers to do agricultural work, after announcing that the U.S. Labor Department will extend its comment period.

In September, the Labor Department notified farmers that they would have 60 days to express any concerns over new guidelines that limit how teens can work in agricultural settings.

But earlier this week, with harvest season just completed and Montanans still busy on their farms, Tester pushed the Labor Department to extend its comment period beyond that November 1 deadline.

Tester, in a bipartisan letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, said that farmers need additional time to review the rule, which could have wide-ranging consequences for family farms.

“Not only would this regulation, as currently drafted, have far reaching effects on youth agricultural education programs, farms, ranches, and other agricultural business, it could greatly impact the structure of family farms and rural communities,” Tester wrote.

Tester, a third-generation farmer from Big Sandy, added that farmers must get the chance to make sure the rule keeps kids safe while not going too far in limiting farm production.

“Government works best when decisions are based on good information so I’m glad that the federal government is giving family farmers an opportunity to have a real say in the operation of their farms,” Tester said after the Labor Department’s decision. “Hands-on farming helps teenagers get real work experience to build a strong work ethic.”

Tester, an outspoken leader for transparency in government, encourages all interested Montanans to submit comments online HERE.

Tester’s letter to Solis appears below and online HERE.

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October 25, 2011

The Honorable Hilda L. Solis
Secretary
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210

Dear Secretary Solis:

We request an extension of the comment period for proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would affect the ability of farmers and ranchers to hire youth to work in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, "Child Labor Regulations, Orders and Statements of Interpretation; Child Labor Violations-Civil Money Penalties" (76 Fed. Reg. 54836), if allowed to move forward in its current form, would have vast implications for the agriculture industry. The original 60 days allowed for comment are not enough for the affected parties to express their concerns.

It is particularly concerning that the DOL would publish a proposed rule in September and set the comment period during the fall harvest season. For agricultural producers across the nation this is the busiest time of year. To allow agriculture producers a reasonable amount of time to consider the proposed regulation and comment, the DOL should allow, at a minimum, an additional 60 days for farmers, ranchers, and others to comment.

Not only would this regulation, as currently drafted, have far reaching effects on youth agricultural education programs, farms, ranches, and other agricultural businesses, it could greatly impact the structure of family farms and rural communities in the states we represent.

We strongly urge you to consider extending the comment period an additional 60 days.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
(s)
Jon Tester et al

-30-

Office Contact Information

Senator Tester's Montana staff serves the state from offices in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Please bring your concerns with federal agencies, academy nominations, and other situations to one of these Montana offices.

Billings

Judge Jameson Federal Building
2900 4th Ave N, Suite 201
Billings, MT 59101
Phone: (406) 252-0550
Fax: (406) 252-7768

Bozeman

Avant Courier Building
1 E Main Street, Suite 202
Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: (406) 586-4450
Fax: (406) 586-7647

Butte

Silver Bow Center
125 W Granite, Suite 200
Butte, MT 59701
Phone: (406) 723-3277
Fax: (406) 782-4717

Great Falls

119 1st Avenue N, Suite 102
Great Falls, MT 59401
Phone: (406) 452-9585
Fax: (406) 452-9586

Helena

Capital One Center
208 N Montana Avenue, Suite 202
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 449-5401
Fax: (406) 449-5462

Kalispell

8 Third Street E
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: (406) 257-3360
Fax: (406) 257-3974

Missoula

130 W Front St.
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 728-3003
Fax: (406) 728-2193

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