Although agriculture is one of the most hazardous occupations in the U.S., federal and North Carolina law continue to allow the employment of minors in farmwork. This week, Human Rights Watch issued a follow up to their 2014 report on the dangers to children employed in tobacco. The new report, Teens of the Tobacco Fields, features interviews conducted with child laborers in North Carolina. Though some positive changes have taken place since 2014, including a new federal regulation prohibiting pesticide applications by children under 18 and voluntary pledges by the tobacco industry regarding the employment of young children, 16 and 17 year old tobacco workers are excluded from most of the limited protections that do exist for farmworker children.
The Farmworker Advocacy Network’s efforts to pass child labor protections for children in North Carolina stalled in 2013. However, the federal CARE Act (HR 2764) would remove labor law exemptions that allows children to do wage work on farms at age 12 and perform hazardous work at age 16. Rep. Cicilline (D-RI) has also introduced legislation to end the use of child labor in tobacco.
Key recommendations from the report can be found here.