Farm families, along with the cause of liberty, won an important battle last week when the Obama administration scrapped plans to prohibit kids from doing a wide range of jobs in agriculture, even on farms belonging to their own family members. The rules would have barred youngsters under 16 from working with animals, storage bins, power-driven equipment, and various other things found on farms; perhaps most significant, they took an exceedingly narrow view of the so-called parental exemption provided by the law, so that (in the rules as proposed last year) kids would have been forbidden to work on an uncle or grandparent's farm, or any farm less than "wholly" owned by their own parents. The Department of Labor was inundated by upwards of 10,000 comments, overwhelmingly negative, from farmers and ranchers; playing out in press outlets like the Custer County, Neb. Chief, the controversy was mostly ignored by the Eastern press, though NPR did do a report in December.
Commentator Ira Stoll has connected the dots about the Obama administration's tendency to press ahead on extreme regulatory measures, then back off after a public outcry builds:
Examples include the mandatory automobile back-up camera rule, the ban of all cellphone use, even hands-free, while driving, the ban on 100 watt incandescent light bulbs, the NLRB's action preventing Boeing from opening a factory in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, and the IRS's cumbersome Form 1099 requirement as part of Obamacare.
Last fall I noted the same pattern, including retreats on EPA standards on dust, smog, and cross-state air pollution, and a misbegotten rule on lead abatement that could have made it prohibitively expensive to rehabilitate older homes. As I said at the time:
This, then, seems to be the new Obama administration compromise position ...: they’ll hold off for now on saddling the economy with at least some potentially ruinous regulations -- but they’ll make sure you know they’re not happy about having to take that stand.
More on the Obama administration and regulation here.