January 13, 2011
Today the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) announced they have designated 2011 the “Year of the Farmworker Child.” Starting in January, AFOP will devote twelve months to raising awareness about the hardships faced by migrant farmworker youth. In addition, AFOP and other supporters of the “Year of the Farmworker Child” will seek to increase public knowledge concerning the discriminatory agricultural exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which regulates child labor in the U.S.
“Children in agriculture labor longer and under more hazardous conditions than they are permitted to do in almost any other American industry,” said AFOP Executive Director David Strauss. “In 2011, we will work with our members, other organizations, and communities to help promote a greater understanding of the impact this kind of life has on children’s safety, health and education, as part of our ongoing effort to help today’s farmworker youth create better futures for themselves.”
Agriculture is currently the third-most dangerous industry in the United States, in terms of injuries and fatalities recorded on the job. For children, it is the most dangerous. Boys and girls as young as 12 years old are legally allowed to labor in agriculture for an unlimited amount of hours outside of school, using dangerous farm equipment and working in an environment that continually exposes them to pesticides-conditions deemed illegal in every other industry and that can lead to serious injury or even death. Farmworker youth are also excluded from the “hazardous work” protections imposed in all other industries, allowing children as young as 16 to operate heavy machinery and perform other dangerous functions that are strictly reserved for adults in every employment field except in agriculture.
Migrant farmworker youth working long days in the fields frequently see their educational opportunities curtailed as a result. The migratory nature of farm work means that parts of the school curriculum often have to be repeated or skipped. We have evidence that more than half of these children will not finish high school and fewer still will go on to college, forcing them to continue the cycle of poverty.
AFOP will begin the “Year of the Farmworker Child” by seeking assistance from supporters to help illuminate the issues raised by the campaign. Among the activities slated to increase awareness is AFOP’s Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Children’s Essay & Art Contest, which will begin accepting entries next month. AFOP’s Children in the Fields Campaign will conduct a variety of regional activities in support of the initiative, starting in February at the “From Harvest to Harvard” migrant student conference in Texas. AFOP’s Health and Safety Programs will also be releasing their annual publication focused on the effects of pesticides on children. For additional information on how you can become a supporter of the “Year of the Farmworker Child,” please contact Ayrianne Parks at parks[at]afop.org.