SIOUX FALLS, SD -
New proposed child labor rules could ban young children from working on family farms in South Dakota.
The U.S. Department of Labor says agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries for adults, and even more dangerous for children.
That's why the agency proposed several new rules to protect kids on the farm. But members of South Dakota's Congressional Delegation say the rules go too far and put family farm operations at risk.
"It's an example of Washington D.C. being completely out of touch with what's going on in the real world," Senator John Thune said.
Thune has been one of the main opponents to the proposed rules, which would ban youth under 16 from driving farm equipment, working with young animals, or working at heights of about six feet. The rules also say nobody under the age of 18 can work at a grain elevator.
"They tell young people on family farm and ranch operations with great specificity what they can't do, things that they've been doing for generations," Thune said.
The Department of Labor has proposed 85 pages of new rules for child labor in agriculture. The rules haven't been updated in 40 years and the agency says the changes are being made to protect children in one of the country's most dangerous industries.
Because of opposition to the rules the Department of Labor has recently made some concessions, allowing children to do any job on a farm owned by their parents.
South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem says even that exemption isn't enough.
"The change in the definition to the family farm could be very detrimental because modern farming operations, or ranching operations, don't tend to be sole proprietorships. They could be partnerships or corporations," Noem said.
Noem has sent a letter to the Department of Labor to ask for clarification on the rules. She says the proposed rules would affect the work even her own kids do on their family farm.
"My kids go and help and work on my brother's operations. We still are involved in farming practices and they wouldn't be allowed to do that anymore if those changes went into place," Noem said.
And that's why members of South Dakota's Congressional Delegation are keeping a close eye on the rules that are being cultivated in Washington D.C. because they want to make sure South Dakota's family farming tradition stays in tact.
To take a look at the proposed rules click on the link to the Department of Labor website here.
To look at a website set up to oppose the changes click here.
© 2012 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.