Children in the Fields Campaign Launches Advocacy Effort to Inform Public on U.S Child Farmworkers

Major Initiative Supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Will Be Used to Build Grass Roots Support in Texas, California, North Carolina, Michigan and Ohio

Washington, D.C – Through a 1.4 million dollar grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) will work to build grass roots support in five key states to combat the exploitation of U.S farmworker children.

“For decades, U.S children, some as young as 10 years old, have been working in the fields with grave consequences for their health, education, and personal development,” says David Strauss, Executive Director of AFOP. “This new effort provides the opportunity to educate the public on this issue so that all farmworker children can pursue their right to education and end the cycle of poverty among migrant families.”

It is estimated that as many as 400,000 work on U.S. farms each year to help support their struggling families.

Current federal child labor laws in the United States permit children to work in agriculture at age 14, although numerous exceptions allow younger children to work in the fields for unlimited hours outside of school hours. The standard minimum age for non-agricultural occupations is 16, with strict limits on the amount of time children can work.

This new advocacy effort expands on previous activities by the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs by bringing together “youth councils” and focusing on developing leadership among farmworker youth as well as educating community leaders.

AFOP has chosen the states of Texas, California, North Carolina, Michigan and Ohio as their key states because of their large farmworker population and prior knowledge of child laborers in these states.

Children In the Field Facts

* Farmworker children are not being afforded the same protection as other working children.
Federal laws permit a child aged 13 to work in 100-degree heat in a strawberry field, but do not permit that child to work in an air-conditioned office. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) the legal age to perform most farm work is only 12 if a parent accompanies the working child. Children who are 14 or older can work unlimited hours in the fields before or after school hours. The same law requires a minimum age of 14 years for non-agricultural work and limits such work to 3 hours per day while school is in session.

* Children working in agriculture face serious health threats.
Children account for about 20 percent of all farm fatalities. Between 1992 and 2000, 42 percent of all work-related deaths of minors occurred in agriculture. According to the Government Accountability Office, in 1998, more than 100,000 children and teens are injured on farms each year. Farmworkers regularly work in fields treated with pesticides—some of which are known carcinogens. Child farmworkers are exposed to the same pesticide levels as adults, yet likely face a far greater health risk. In March 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that children under two may be 10 times more vulnerable to cancer from chemicals and pesticides that cause gene mutations.

We must ensure that farmworker families make a living wage.
Many migrant children work to supplement family income. In 2002, researchers found that 57 percent of farmworkers earned less than $12,500. The average farmworker family made between $15,000 and $17,500, well below the federal poverty level for families of four or more people.

The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs is the national federation of nonprofit and public agencies that provide training and employment services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930. The organization supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the southern African countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

For further information, please visit the Foundation’s website at www.wkkf.org.

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