The Department of Labor is increasing the penalty for child labor.

Under a new penalty structure that took effect June 16, illegally employing a 12-year-old and younger can result in a $8,000 fine, and illegally employing 12- to 13-year-olds up to $6,000.

Under certain conditions, the penalty could be raised to $11,000 per violation, according to a news release from the department of labor.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act is more lenient for agricultural work than work in other industries. Children under 12 are allowed to work on farms small enough that federal minimum wage requirements do not apply.

Twelve- to 13-year-olds may work on the same farm with a parent’s consent. Until the age of 16, children may not perform hazardous work or be employed during school hours, according to the release.

Child labor has been in the spotlight recently, with a bill introduced by Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., that would make child labor laws equal across all industries. She started her battle in 2007 to “address the problems associated with 500,000 children employed in agriculture in the U.S. by raising labor standards and protections for farmworker children to the same level set for children in occupations outside of agriculture,” according to her website.

The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, a nonprofit dedicated to providing training and employment services to migrant and seasonal farm workers, sent a statement commending the Department of Labor’s new penalty structure and reaffirming Roybal-Allard’s plan.

“The inequity in the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) is disturbing, but we commend the secretary of labor for taking this step forward to discourage the exploitation of child laborers in the U.S.,” said David Strauss, executive director of the association, in the release. “More steps need to be taken by all branches of our government to ensure that all children in every industry are protected equally.”

The attention given to child labor in agriculture by lawmakers recently is enough to make some produce industry members scratch their heads.

“There’s nothing wrong with youths working on farms if you’re supervised,” said Fred Leitz, partner in Leitz Farms, Sodus, Mich. “What better opportunity is there for rural teenagers?”

Leitz said if the government is going to be stricter on child labor in agriculture, it needs to be stricter on everyone.

More information about child labor restrictions is available here.