U.S. government won't restrict young farmers from helping out - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

U.S. government won't restrict young farmers from helping out

The federal government plans to take new steps to try to keep young farmers safe. The U.S. Department of Labor drafted a rule limiting what kind of work young people could do on the farm. But after receiving thousands of complaints, the department withdrew that proposal.

Dawn Mroczenski and her husband have raised three sons on their farm. For them, the family that works together, stays safe together.

"We're with them the whole while they're doing these jobs so if we see something that's putting them in danger, we can say something about that," said Dawn.

Dawn's 17-year-old son Luke agrees.

"They make sure I can handle it by myself, keep an eye on me until they know I'm 100% safe with what I'm doing," said Luke.

Luke said he enjoys helping out, both on his family farm and his neighbors'. But a proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Labor would have limited how much he could do. It would have stopped anyone under 18 from working in feed lots, grain bins and stock yards. Now, the rule did not include children working on family farms -- but Luke and other teens said they help others as well.

"Usually they're close enough friends or family that they wouldn't want you to get hurt either," said 17-year-old Danny Trimmer. "They'd feel just as bad."

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, agriculture is one of the most dangerous trades. On average, more than 100 people under the age of 20 die from farm-related injuries each year. Most of those are between 16 and 19 years old.

Child labor groups said they're stunned by the department's choice.

"There was tremendous heat, and I don't think it helped that it was an election year," said Child Labor Coalition coordinator Reid Maki. "A lot of conservatives made a lot of political hay out of this issue."

Now the Department of Labor will take a different approach. Government officials said they'll work with farm groups to teach young workers how to stay safe. And many young workers said they'll keep looking to their parents for guidance.

"A parent would care enough about their kid to teach them adequate safety rules and make sure that their kid's informed enough to not be hurt," said Luke.

"That's the last thing your parents going to want to do, is get your son or daughter hurt so they'll definitely take the right steps," said Danny.

In Wisconsin, minors under the age of 12 are technically not supposed to work on farms. But younger children can work -- outside school hours -- under their parents' supervision.

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