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More farm jobs deemed too dangerous for kids

A local child drives a plough pulled by horses on his family farmland in Solesti village, 400km north from Bucharest, 01 May 2006.

Jeremy Hobson: The Labor Department is planning to release... a proposal to extend the list of farm jobs that
it says are too dangerous for kids.

And as Sally Herships reports, that is causing a lot of controversy in the farming community.


Sally Herships: This summer, two 14-year-old girls were killed while working in an Illinois corn field. They were electrocuted by an irrigation system.

Don Villarejo: And that's a measure of the kind of hazard that we face. The likelihood of death for those kinds of child workers in agriculture is far greater than children working in any other industry.

Don Villarejo is director emeritus of the California Institute of Rural Studies. He says farms employ only 2 percent of U.S. workers, but a quarter of all children killed on the job work in agriculture.

Villarejo: So it's a very disproportionately large share of child workers in ag who die, as compared to other industries.

Farm jobs, he says, are dangerous. So Villarejo says he's pleased that the Labor Department is publishing a new list of farm jobs that will be off limits to kids under the age of 16. Banned areas include grain elevators and silos. Some work with animals will also be restricted.

John Thompson: With animals, what does that mean?

John Thompson works with the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.

Thompson: Does this mean kids on the farm can't go out and milk the cow anymore? Can't feed the chickens? Doesn't make sense. Seems like it's an example of the federal government poking its nose where it doesn't belong.

He says, of course, no one wants kids to get hurt. But he doesn't want family businesses hurt either. The new Labor Department rules exempt children working on their family's farm. But lawyers at one agricultural trade group are being careful. They're advising some members not to hire their kids.

In New York, I'm Sally Herships for Marketplace.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.
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