April 23, 2012

Big Ag Industry Rallies To Support New Pro-Child Labor Legislation

Big Ag Industry Rallies To Support New Pro-Child Labor Legislation
The U.S. Cattlemen's Association posted this picture of a recent meeting with Congressman Cliff Stearns.

Last year, two teenagers handling a large grain auger had their legs severed while working at the Zaloudek Grain Co. in Oklahoma. The Department of Labor (DOL) proposed rules that might have prevented this tragedy. The rules, designed to curb dangerous child labor in agriculture, were finally unveiled last year after a long delay. The labor changes would preventchildren from working in harsh conditions, including operating heavy machinery.

But as Republic Report noted earlier this year, agricultural industry lobbyists have worked aggressively to cut the DOL’s ability to implement this regulation. We showed how Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), backed by campaign contributions and lobbying support from the farm lobby, circulated a letter to undercut the child labor rules. Now, Senator John Thune (R-SD) has a bill — euphemistically called the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act — that would revoke the DOL’s authority to prevent children from working on farms in dangerous conditions, including in manure pits.

Politico reports that the Cattlemen’s Association, which represents the beef industry and its corporate partners, including Cargill Meat Solutions and McDonald’s Corporation, has sent its representatives to Capitol Hill to support Thune’s pro-child labor bill:

CATTLEMEN TAKING THEIR BEEFS TO D.C.: The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association is in the midst of a lobbying push on Capitol Hill, with members from California, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Virginia meeting this week with numerous congressional offices and administration officials, a member of the group tells PI. A couple of groups of burly guys in cowboy hats and suits could be seen Wednesday walking the halls of the Capitol. The 2012 farm bill and the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act are prime lobbying targets, as is supporting labeling of meat’s country of origin.

This week, the Senate released quarterly lobbying reports. The filings reveal other agriculture lobbying interests working to promote Thune’s bill and the overall effort to gut the DOL’s ability to enforce child labor standards. The National Milk Producers Federation spent $130,502 lobbying during the first three months of this year, listing opposition to the youth labor regulations as one of their objectives.

Thune’s bill continues to pick up co-sponsors. Last month, the DOL, under intense industry pressure, said that it would redraft the child labor rules.

Unfortunately, it appears that children who might benefit from the labor regulations do not have the political resources to push back against the lobbying might of industrial farms.

RELATED: E-Mail Reveals Coordination Between Congressman Rehberg’s Pro-Child Labor Letter, Big Ag Lobby