Child Labor Free Certification Initiative

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Sec. 3205 of the Food and Energy Security Act directs the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a third party certification program for child labor and forced labor.

Sec. 3205 of the Food and Energy Security Act, also known as the Farm Bill, directs the establishment of a voluntary, independent, third party monitoring and verification program that will certify whether an agricultural product imported or sold in the United States is produced by forced labor or child labor.

In the Managers report (see page 85), Senator Harkin and Rep. Peterson explain the purpose of Sec. 3205 is the development of “a voluntary, third-party certification effort is designed to reduce the likelihood that products produced with forced labor or child labor are imported into the United States as directed in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2005."

Sec. 3205 was developed to facilitate implementation of the directives of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPRA), 22 U.S.C. §7112. Pursuant to the TVPRA, which passed with near unanimous support in the Congress, the United States Government is directed “to develop and make available to the public a list of goods from countries that the Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) has reason to believe are produced by forced labor or child labor in violation of international standards.” Currently, the Department of Labor is in the process of developing the list, which is scheduled to be released sometime in early 2009. (22 U.S.C §7112(b)(2)(C))

Once the list of child labor-made products is issued, the TVPRA directs the U.S. Government to work with industries involved in the production, importation and sale of those products identified by ILAB to develop a “standard set of practices” that will “reduce the likelihood” that their products are produced with forced labor or child labor with the ultimate goal of ending the importation of goods into the U.S. that are produced with forced labor or child labor. (22 U.S.C §7112(b)(2)(D) & (E))

The Sec. 3205 certification program will provide willing consumers and businesses, as well as the U.S. government, with an effective tool to drive down demand for child labor-made goods by providing full information to the market about which products, and companies, take efforts to avoid using and profiting from child labor.

The Sec. 3205 Certification Program will be developed through a multi-stakeholder Consultative Group.

Recognizing the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to addressing the problems of forced labor and child labor in global agricultural production, where an estimated 70% of all child labor is found, Sec. 3205 of the Food and Energy Security Act of 2007 establishes the “Consultative Group to Eliminate the Use of Child Labor in Imported Agriculture.” (§3205(b))  International Labor Rights Forum's Executive Director was appointed to this advisory group in September 2009.  You can view the other members of the group here.

The Consultative Group will be the mechanism through which ILAB will consult with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), members of the business community, labor organizations, and experts in agriculture, development and child labor in order to establish the standard set of business practices that will reduce the use of child labor in those agricultural industries that are identified has economically benefiting from widespread use of child labor.

The Consultative Group’s purpose is to develop recommendations for the establishment of an independent, third party monitoring and verification program for agricultural products being imported into the United States, which will provide producers, processors, importers, distributors, and retailers a way to ensure that the products they buy and sell are not produced with forced labor or child labor. Since the USDA has extensive expertise in the development of independent, third party monitoring and verifications programs, such as the National Organics Program, the USDA is directed to take the lead in convening the Consultative Group. (§3205(e))

The Consultative Group will meet at least four times a year for two years, after which time it will forward its recommended “standard set of practices” for independent, third party monitoring and verification for the production of labor standards to the Secretary of Agriculture. (§3205(c)(1)) Within one year after receiving the recommendation, the Secretary of Agriculture will commence a public rulemaking with the purpose of creating a voluntary, independent third party certification program based on the recommendations of the Consultative Group. (§3205(c)(2))

By establishing a collaborative, multi-stakeholder process for developing the certification program, Sec. 3205 will provide a platform for standard setting that will help build consensus among different stakeholder groups, including the government, agricultural businesses, labor organizations, and consumer groups, as to the minimum labor standards and third party monitoring and verification protocols needed to help end child labor.

Under Sec. 3205, the Consultative Group and the USDA have substantial leeway in deciding how to implement the third party monitoring and verification program. For example, the USDA could decide to develop a government-based voluntary certification program, such as the USDA National Organic Program, or the USDA could simply develop the minimum standards and protocols necessary for an effective “no child labor” certification program and identify which of the growing number of voluntary private, third party certification initiatives meet these requirements.

The third party monitoring and verification program will be entirely voluntary and no company will be required to participate in the program. However, the program will assist any company that is concerned that its agricultural products are being produced by forced labor or child labor.