Tester to Labor Dept.: Back off proposal to restrict family farms
Senate’s only active farmer calls for fairness in proposed farm regulations
(DEER LODGE, Mont.) – As the Senate’s only active farmer, Senator Jon Tester knows how important it is for Montana teenagers to learn the farm business from a young age.
That’s why Tester is concerned that proposed Labor Department regulations on youth employment on farms would not only impact the bottom-lines of Montana farmers and ranchers, but also harm the future of family agriculture and prevent young people from learning the value of hard work.
Tester today demanded that Labor officials reevaluate the proposed rules, which restrict young people on tasks ranging from working with animals in a pen to assisting with vaccinations.
“The skills young people acquire from family agriculture translates into a healthy work ethic that will serve them their entire lives, whether they choose to stay in agriculture or not,” Tester wrote Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. “I strongly believe family agriculture is one of the foundations of America, and unfairly regulating the ability for young people to fully experience and grow from it will be detrimental to our future.”
Tester, who grew-up “picking rocks” on his grandfather’s farm that he now runs, believes that the farm instilled in him a deeper respect for safety than any regulation ever could.
Tester is also concerned that the new restrictions eliminate exemptions for completion of safety courses through 4-H or the local extension service.
Tester, a third-generation farmer from Big Sandy, is not new to the farm labor issue. In October he announced that – at his request – the Labor Department would extend its public comment period on the proposed regulation.
Tester’s letter to Solis appears below and online HERE.
December 21, 2011
The Honorable Hilda Solis
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20210
Dear Secretary Solis,
I write with deep concern about a new proposal regulating the traditional work of young people in agriculture. The Department of Labor published proposed rules in the Federal Register on September 2, and I believe these new rules will have a troublesome impact on the future of family agriculture, and on our economy as a whole.
As the Senate’s only working farmer, I know how important it is for young people to be involved with daily work on farms and ranches. Growing up on the same farm my grandparents homesteaded a century ago, my brothers and I were expected to help bale hay and pick rocks out of the fields. That work ethic – instilled in all of us as youngsters along with a deep respect for safety – is what built this nation. That work ethic is critical to the future of family farms and ranches in Montana and across rural America.
The skills young people acquire from family agriculture translates into a healthy work ethic that will serve them their entire lives, whether they choose to stay in agriculture or not. My respect for hard work – acquired after many hard days baling hay in the fields as a young man – has evolved into my desire to work tirelessly as a public servant today. I strongly believe family agriculture is one of the foundations of America, and unfairly regulating the ability for young people to fully experience and grow from it will be detrimental to our future.
I urge you to consider seriously this proposal.