The Department of Labor’s decision this week to reconsider its agricultural youth labor regulations was received with mixed reactions.
At first, it appeared the department administrators who were going to decide how an entire nation of farmers were going to act around their children had reversed course after receiving advice from thousands of farm advocates and dozens of lawmakers.
But upon further review, it appears the administration may not have done an about-face afterall, and it will only review a small portion of its new proposed regulations.
That’s why The Associated Press reported the concerns of Kansas Rep. Jerry Moran, a Republican, who called the Department of Labor regulations “a threat to the future of agriculture.”
And then U.S. Rep. Candice S. Miller, a Michigan Republican, issued a statement Friday that expressed “serious concerns” about rules that would “threaten what it means to grow up in the country.”
We join with farmers across the nation in expressing our concern with government interference in farm families. Once again, parental choice and guidance is getting trumped by government oversight.
When children do chores on a farm, they are learning about a particular lifestyle and potential career. They are learning work ethic and perseverance. They are learning animal husbandry and soil conservation.
It is not the same as emptying the waste baskets and doing the dishes at a home in, say, Albuquerque, N.M.
Yes, farming can be dangerous. And that is why farmers teach their children from an early age how to live with and handle animals and how to respect the strength of animals and machinery. Farmers are not ignorant of the dangers of their work, nor the stories of severe injuries and even deaths on farms.
That is why farm parents want the final say in raising children and having their sons and daughters at their side to learn the unique lifestyle of living on a farm. They have heard the government’s argument and disagree.
Yet, the Department of Labor wants to impose its own farm rules and lifestyle. The wisdom of the current administration wants to ask farm families to shield their children from certain work until age 16, and then unleash upon them a set of safety rules to replace the years of experience these children have lost.
Farm parents suspect that restriction could, in fact, make children less safe on the farm.
Part of the ruling also has to do with geography. An animal can be cared for on land owned by a child’s parents, but not on land owned by a child’s friends or relatives.
What is the logic in that?
The outcry from farmers and their support network has been so strong and consistent that the Department of Labor has been unable to ignore it. We think the way of life on the farm is an exception to business as usual, and we think farm parents are best suited to guide their children.
We trust that with the help of both political parties, the current administration in Washington will completely overhaul this flawed proposal.
Farm labor plan remains flawed
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