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Congress considers rules about child labor on farms

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Jeremy Hobson: Now to Washington, where today Congress will be asking questions about child labor in agriculture. The government was set to impose new rules limiting the work kids are allowed to do on farms. But those rules are being reconsidered after an outcry from farmers.

Elizabeth Wynne Johnson reports.

Elizabeth Wynne Johnson: The tug-of-war between federal regulators and the guardians of tradition doesn’t get much more American than this: who gets to decide if it’s OK for a child to work in a pen with an aggressive farm animal?

Congressman Scott Tipton is a Colorado Republican and chair of a House subcommittee on Small Business. He says Washington doesn’t get what he calls the “matrix” of agricultural America.

Scott Tipton: I come from a farm and ranch community. You know, these are great-grandparents, grandparents, parents who live in the same area; share their labor force — which happens to be family.

On the same House subcommittee, California Democrat Judy Chu says child labor laws are overdue for an update, and should be made tougher.

Judy Chu: When you hear about horrific incidents — like where young people are killed in the grain silos — you know that something must be done about it.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, three-quarters of the children killed in work-related accidents in 2010 were working on farms.

In Washington, I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson for Marketplace.

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