Sarah Palin says Obama wants to ban kids from farm work. Is she right?

Well, Sarah Palin is airing the concerns of many farm-state lawmakers. But there's no evidence that Obama is trying to stop kids from working on the family farm, which she alleges.

Robert DeBerry/The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman/AP/File
Sarah Palin, during her term as governor of Alaska, pardons a Thanksgiving turkey at Triple D Farm and Hatchery in Wasilla, Alaska, in this file photo.

Sarah Palin says the Obama administration wants to ban kids from working on family farms. In a Facebook post Wednesday she charges that the Department of Labor is working on regulations that would stop children from doing agricultural chores that teach hard work and help feed America.

“This is more overreach of the federal government with many negative overtones,” the ex-Alaska governor writes.

Is she right? Are before-school milkings, after-school stall mucking, and summertime hay-bale hauling at risk?

Weeellll, it would have been better if Ms. Palin had gone to the source material before putting this up. Maybe.

It is true that the Labor Department is working up new regulations bearing on under-age-16 agricultural work. It has been working on them for some years now, with lots of input from farm groups, which are very much worried about that ending-farm-chores thing. So in that sense Palin is resounding a previously rung alarm.

However, “the proposed regulations would not apply to children working on farms owned by their parents”, says the Labor Department press release from last August announcing publication of the proposed law revisions in the Federal Register.

Palin says in her Facebook post that the new regs “would prevent children from working on our own family farms.” This would not appear to be correct, unless there is some definition of "family farm" we nonfarm workers aren't familiar with.

What the regulations would do, according to the Labor Department, is update the list of farm jobs that children under age 16 cannot be hired to do by nonfamily farms.  Among the new tasks on the list: pesticide handling, timber operations, and work around manure pits and storage bins. Farm workers under 16 would no longer be able to cultivate, harvest, or cure tobacco, either.

Agricultural work accounts for 75 percent of the job-related fatalities for workers under 16, notes the Labor Department.

“Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis last August.

Many farm-state lawmakers still believe the rules go too far. Sen. Jerry Moran (R) of Kansas earlier this month published an opinion piece on Politico that questioned whether those who drew up the regulations knew much about agriculture, and charged that the Labor Department originally had wanted to narrow the parental farm exemption.

“The future of agriculture, and our individual rights, depends on stopping this vast overreach of executive authority,” wrote Senator Moran.

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