Despite assurances from the U.S. Department of Labor that it will modify its proposed regulations on children working in agriculture, Nebraska Farm Bureau and Nebraska FFA officials are still not convinced.
During a news conference at the state FFA convention in Lincoln Thursday, Nebraska Farm Bureau announced a new campaign called “Let Me Get My Hands Dirty.” Farm Bureau president Steve Nelson tells Brownfield it’s another way for adults and children to voice their concerns over the proposed regulations.
“We’re still very concerned about a number of situations that take place commonly in agriculture today that still would be affected by the rules,” Nelson says. “So, at this point, we see no reason to back away from this. This is a huge thing for the future of agriculture.”
Anita Wollenburg, ag instructor and FFA adviser at Wilber-Clatonia High School, says “learning by doing” is an important part of the FFA curriculum. Wollenburg is especially concerned with how the rules could impact the FFA’s Supervised Agricultural Experience—or SAE—program.
“If we strip these students of the opportunity to be in production agriculture—and learn by doing—we are stripping from them their ability to learn,” Wollenburg says. “We are taking that right and that privilege away from them.”
DOL wants to strengthen the safety requirements for young people in agriculture. Nelson agrees that the safety of children is a top priority, but says the proposed rules go too far in restricting what children have historically been allowed to do on farms and ranches.