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Labor seeks bids for project to reduce child labor in imported ag products

The Labor Department announced today it would solicit bids to implement a $5 million cooperative agreement to pilot test Agriculture Department guidelines to reduce child labor and forced labor in imported agricultural products.

The USDA’s 2011 Guidelines for Eliminating Child and Forced Labor in Agricultural Supply Chains lay out the key elements of effective company programs to reduce the likelihood that child or forced labor is used in agricultural products or commodities imported into the United States, the Labor Department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs said in a news release.

Worldwide, an estimated 60 percent of children who work do so in the agricultural sector, the Labor Department estimated. Much of the chocolate consumed in the United States is produced from cocoa from Western African farms, where children do much of the work. Children on these farms have been cited as a particularly endangered group.

Prospective applicants must represent a partnership that includes a nongovernmental organization and a company that is active in agricultural supply chains, the Labor Department said. Applicants must demonstrate expertise in areas such as international children’s issues, labor issues and company supply chain compliance programs.

The project funded as a result of this competition will be a pilot program for one or more companies to reduce child labor (and forced labor if applicable) in an agricultural supply chain in one country. In addition, the projects will involve documenting lessons learned and recommendations for future application of the USDA’s guidelines.

Applications must be submitted by Aug. 20 at 5 p.m. EDT electronically via www.grants.gov or by mail to the U.S. Department of Labor, Procurement Services Center, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Room S-4307, Washington, D.C. 20210, Attention: Brenda White and Jim Kinslow.