WEST WARREN -- Clint Wade doesn't know what he'd do without his sons, Tanner, 16, Jace, 14, and Rhett, 11, helping out on his farm.
"It would be real hard," he said. "I wouldn't get half the stuff done I needed to get done. They save a couple hours a day for me."
But a proposal dropped last week by the Labor Commission could have severely limited his sons' contributions to his operation.
Wade is among a host of farmers and ranchers statewide and nationwide celebrating because the Obama administration dropped the effort to prevent children from doing hazardous work on farms.
Utah Farm Bureau President Leland Hogan said the proposal would have barred many young people from working in agriculture, including on extended relatives' farms.
The Labor Department announced Thursday it was withdrawing proposed rules that would ban children younger than 16 from using most power-driven equipment, even on their own family's farm. The rules also would have prevented those younger than 18 from working in feed lots, grain bins and stockyards.
Government officials said their goal was to protect children from life-threatening injuries.
Agriculture has the second-highest fatality rate among youth workers at 21.3 per 100,000 workers, compared to 3.6 per 100,000 across all industries, the National Children's Center for Agricultural Health and Safety reported.
The Department of Labor first proposed the new regulations Sept. 2, "which set forth the criteria for the permissible employment of minors under 18 years of age in agricultural and non-agricultural occupations," the recommendations state.
"The proposal would implement specific recommendations made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, increase parity between the agricultural and non-agricultural child labor provisions, and also address other areas that can be improved, which were identified by the department's own enforcement actions," according to the recommendations.
Hogan said the bureau and state officials have long been working for farm safety and have seen farm fatalities drop 83 percent since 1986.
Randy Parker, Utah Farm Bureau CEO, said he and others had been particularly concerned about proposed limits for those younger than 16 using power-driven equipment.
"We are talking about battery-operated screw drivers, milk parlors or running a bailer or something like that," Parker said. "These are activities that have been done for generations. And they have been done safely."
Those who opposed the regulations feared that once the Labor Department started limiting youth help, it would become even more restrictive over time.
And interrupting the operations of family farms and ranches would be devastating, they said.
"Ninety-eight percent of American agriculture is owned and operated by family farmers and ranchers," Parker said. "There are 2 million to 2.5 million families that have their families involved in producing our food and fiber."
Parker said allowing children to work on family operations was at the heart of creating the next generation of farm workers.
"Our view is, that's a very important part of their up-bringing," he said.
The proposed regulations weren't dropped without effort on the part of those who would have been affected the most.
"There has been a national effort through the American Farm Bureau to contact (government officials)," Parker said.
Ron Gibson, Weber County president in the Utah Farm Bureau, is one who wrote letters to congressmen and senators.
Gibson said there was much to be worried about.
"Agriculture is something that starts young," he said. "My kids have been driving tractors for years. My son is 14 right now and one of the best operators we have."
He said his dairy and farm also benefits from the efforts of his nephews, who are in the same age range.
"I call them my kids," he said. "They are just great. They do a good job."
Gibson said children learn to love agriculture by growing up around it.
"I just can't imagine telling them 'You can't come here. You can't work until you are 18.' It's the craziest thing I've ever heard of."
On the flip side, Gibson said there are kids today who do nothing productive.
"When we have kids out doing something good, we are going to make it illegal for them to work?" he said. "I mean, it's just insane."
Scott Wayment, a Warren dairy farmer, said his children are grown, but looking back, he can see the value in what they learned as they drove tractors and performed other tasks from young ages.
"I don't know how you can replace that kind of help," he said. "It has taught them to be responsible people. It has given them a lot of training, how to handle things."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.