Did you know it’s legal for kids as young as 12 and sometimes younger to pick food on U.S. commercial farms? According to a new report by Human Rights Watch, hundreds of thousands of children are employed as farm workers and they often work 10 or more hours a day with sharp tools, heavy machinery and dangerous pesticides.
One-third of all child farm workers don’t graduate from high school, reports “Fields of Peril: Child Labor in U.S. Agriculture.” And many risk their health and their lives. From 2005 to 2008, at least 43 children under age 18 died from work-related injuries in crop production—27 percent of all children who were fatally injured at work. The risk of fatal injuries for agricultural workers ages 15 to 17 is more than four times that of other young workers. Deadly pesticides are sprayed even as they work in the fields. As Hector H., an 18-year-old farm laborer who works alongside children, describes it:
You can smell them. [Recently] the plane sprayed, sprayed the cotton….I felt dizzy. I covered my face and kept working. No one told us to get out of the field.
Human Rights Watch is urging Congress, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency to take steps to address child farm labor abuse.
One recommendation includes amending the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to apply the same age and hour requirements to children working for hire in agriculture as applies to all other working children.
A bill now in Congress would do just that: the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (Care Act, H.R. 3564). Tell your members of Congress to support it.
As the video here puts it, the bill is needed
so that more kids can play with their food—instead of picking it.