Will new child labor rules threaten family farms?

Many farmers throughout New York State are trying to block new federal labor regulations which they say threaten the future of family farms.

The U.S. Department of Labor issued new guidelines governing the employment of 14 and 15 year olds. The regulations are designed to protect the child's health and safety by restricting their access to heavy equipment and hazardous conditions. But, the New York Farm Bureau says the rules are "misguided" to the point where they could prohibit a teen employed on a farm from "using a flashlight or unloading a truck."

Eric Behling of Behling Orchards in Oswego County says the government is "over-reaching" and interfering with the way farm families raise their children. Behling's operation has been in his family for five generations. He says the Labor Department regulations would discourage parents from teaching their children how to operate farms and could threaten the future of family farms.

Behling's son, Orion agrees that the regulations would hurt farming. The 25-year-old says he grew up learning how to become a farmer from his father and says he has a much better work ethic because of it. Orion Behling told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon with a sense of irony, that he has a 1-year-old son and would like him to take over the family farm someday, "If the government lets me."

North country Congressman Bill Owens agrees that the regulations are harmful. Owens has co-sponsored legislation that would block the Department of Labor from implementing the new rules which are slated to take effect this summer.