Nebraska agricultural leaders say proposed new rules by the Department of Labor add to their worries about federal overreach.
The Labor Department proposes extending child labor laws to agricultural occupations outside the family farm. It would prohibit teen-agers younger than 16 from working in many agricultural settings.
“We have been concerned for the past few years on federal government really trying to sink its hands and really regulate what farmers and ranchers do on a very daily basis,” Nebraska
Farm Bureau national affairs coordinator Jordan Dux tells the Brownfield Network.
Seed companies worry about the affect the changes might have on the detasseling industry. The companies estimate that half of its workforce is younger than 16.
13-year-old Haleigh Seizys of Lincoln detasseled last year for NATS (Not Afraid To Sweat) Detasseling of Lincoln. She says she earned a lot of money and learned a lot about herself last year.
“It really taught me what it’s like to persevere through hard work and tough conditions,” according to Seizys. “I learned a lot about team work as well”
18-year-old Brad Hansen of Ceresco says that he wouldn’t have been able to start in detasseling as young as he did under the proposal rule change. Hansen has destasseled corn for the past five years. He says it has been a great job for him.
“It’s been an excellent opportunity for me to develop a work ethic, develop character and to make a great amount of money for my age,” Hansen says. “The past couple of summers I’ve made right around $2,500 for three weeks work and I just can’t make that at any other job.”
Dawn Buell of Lincoln owns NATS Detasseling. She says about 40% of her workers are younger than 16.
“I believe it would really have such a detrimental effect, I’m not sure it would be worth staying in business any more, quite frankly,” Buell says.
Buell adds the change would force her industry to seek migrant labor. Today is the last day the Labor Department will accept comments on the proposed change.
Ken Anderson with the Brownfield Network contributed to this report.