Agribusiness Fights to Allow Children to Work in Manure Pits

Most child labor was prohibited in 1938, but there are a few exceptions for certain industries where children are still allowed to work.

One of the biggest loopholes is the agricultural industry. The Department of Labor recently issued new proposed regulations restricting child labor on farms, regulations which are drawing intense opposition from politicians and agribusiness groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation. The rules have been held up by administration official Cass Sunstein, at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs which reviews most Federal regulations before they are finalized. These rules are complex, and the opposition to them is varied. Some politicians, such as Jon Tester, Debbie Stabenow, and Tom Harkin, want to ensure that children can work on farms in which their family’s own a stake. The Department of Labor has recently revised the rules to allow that.

But other politicians just seem to want children to be put to work.

For instance, Republican Congressional candidate Tom Cotton has argued against child labor restrictions in the agricultural sector, saying “We need more young people who’ve worked all day in the fields, not less.” And Republican Congressman Danny Rehberg believes that modern farm equipment cannot hurt children.

“It’s impossible. You could have a five-year-old out there running it.” Rehberg added that he’s previously employed a 10-year-old neighbor to herd cashmere goats with what he described as a Kawasaki youth motorcycle. “Now would that be exempt under this rule?” Rehberg demanded of Nancy J. Leppink, a deputy administrator in the Labor Department..

Note that Rehberg is talking about employing a neighbor’s child, which means that he is opposing rules that go beyond letting children work on farms in which their family owns a stake. According to the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, one of the proposed rules would “prohibit work inside a manure pit.” There are more proposed rules that attempt to restrict children from using farm machinery and dealing with dangerous poisonous materials and environments, these rules having nothing to do with the family farming exception. It seems like this is just lobbying to let children work in manure pits.
Often we say lobbying is gross, as a metaphor. In this case, lobbying is just gross.

Republic Report is an investigative news blog dedicated uncovering the corrupting influence of money in politics.