Tester calls on Labor Dept. to respect Montana’s farmers and ranchers
Senate’s only active farmer ‘deeply disappointed’ with decision on youth labor
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today is taking the U.S. Labor Department to task over its latest proposal to restrict the traditional work of young people on Montana farms and ranches.
Tester told Labor Secretary Hilda Solis that the proposed rule threatens Montana’s agricultural tradition and denies teenagers critical life skills and lessons. The Department of Labor announced Thursday that it will reevaluate parts of the proposal.
Tester, who grew up baling hay and "picking rocks" on his family’s farm, called farm work vital for teenagers individual growth.
“I know personally the importance of agricultural work to the personal development of young people in rural America,” Tester wrote to Solis. “By placing federal regulations between rural youth and activities that are essential to their personal development, the Department of Labor is crossing a line that should not be crossed.”
Tester noted that while it’s important to keep our young people safe, it’s essential to expose them to valuable opportunities that develop a deep and long-lasting respect for work.
Tester, along with many Montanans, pushed the Department to back off its original proposal. He also expressed his concerns directly to Solis last fall and joined bipartisan efforts to give Americans more time to comment on the proposal.
Today’s letter to Solis is available below and online, HERE.
February 2, 2012
The Honorable Hilda Solis
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20210
I read with great interest yesterday’s statement and I again call on the Department of Labor (DOL) to abandon its proposed rules regarding the parental exemption. As you know, the exemption allows parents to teach children how to work safely in agriculture. While I appreciate that the DOL will give farmers and ranchers an additional opportunity to comment on the structure of the parental exemption, I am deeply disappointed that the Department of Labor is moving forward with this rule in any form whatsoever.
As the United States Senate’s only farmer, my appreciation for a hard day’s work started with a childhood spent baling hay and picking rocks out of the fields at my family’s farm. I know personally the importance of agricultural work to the personal development of young people in rural America. By placing federal regulations between rural youth and activities that are essential to their personal development, the Department of Labor is crossing a line that should not be crossed.
We all share the responsibility for keeping our young people safe. But we also must not shield them from valuable opportunities to develop the respect for work, and the specific skills that will serve them later in life as they have served me. The government should not punish parents for teaching children the good values associated with hard work and our national agricultural heritage.
I urge you once again to reconsider moving forward on any changes to the current rules.