Frank Gasperini went under the lights for over an hour as part of a “60 Minutes” interview in August of last year, and had to wait until May 22 of this year for the television news magazine’s report on child farm labor to air.
The segment, “Farm labor: children in the fields” was fair, said Gasperini, executive vice president of the Washington, D.C. National Council of Agricultural Employers.
“I was very pleased,” he said May 25. “I thought their report was pretty balanced, they raised an important issue, and they didn’t appear to take sides.”
Gasperini’s exchange with CBS reporter Byron Pitts, transcribed on the CBS web site, focused on children legally working on farms:
Today, the number of children legally working on farms is only guessed at: the U.S. Department of Labor says it might be as high as 155,000.
“We don’t advocate young children working in sweatshop conditions, whether it’s a factory or the farm,” Gasperini told Pitts.
Gasperini’s organization is a Washington lobby that represents fruit and vegetable growers.
“Why is this still necessary to have children working on farms at all?” Pitts asked.
“In terms of productivity, it probably isn’t. In terms of opportunities for the children, I think it is still very valuable,” Gasperini said. “There’re a lot of good safe jobs for 12 and 13 year olds that give them an opportunity to have early work experience, to earn some money. And sometimes that’s very important for their families.”
Gasperini said the Department of Labor is close to starting a process that would tighten the rules regarding child farm labor. Gasperini said most believe the Department of Labor will continue to exempt farm owners’ children from the rules, but tighten rules for other children hired by farmers to resemble non-agriculture youth work standards.
Currently, children hired by farmers can work at some jobs on farms as young as 12 years, with less restrictive work available at 14 years old.
New restrictions on youth labor in agriculture could affect the incomes of migrant families by taking away incomes of youth workers and perhaps adding to the cost of child care, Gasperini said.