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U.S. Department of Labor backtracks about child labor on farms

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by Monica Wheelus

Late this afternoon the Labor Department issued this statement concerning youth working on farms:

“The Obama Administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations. The Obama Administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations. As a result, the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations. The decision to withdraw this rule – including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption’ – was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama Administration. Instead, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with rural stakeholders – such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H – to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices.”

For those that didn’t hear about this controversial bit of legislation.  It would have prohibited anyone under the age of 16 from working in agriculture.  This included the family farm.  Young people across the country would have also not been able to engage in anything related to agriculture that could be deemed as “labor”.  This could have included many projects for 4H and FFA, such as livestock and horticulture.  Millions of dollars in money and scholarships related to these projects are awarded across the United States.  Not being able to participate in this type of activity until the age of 16 would have devastated that aspect of the industry and hindered many from attaining a higher education.

It just isn’t always possible for a farmer or rancher to pay the cost of their child’s tuition.  Family farms are not multimillion dollar operations like the corporations own.  They need the entire family to keep things afloat from year to year and season to season.  They want their children to be educated and come home to help run the business.  It is a business for the family, but it is also a way of life.

Recent rising costs of fuel and supplies have stretched the farm budgets to a breaking point and many are having to sell out just to get out of debt. With the smaller family run farms becoming fewer and fewer, this removal of a large portion of the workforce could have been the nail in the proverbial coffin.

Note: This is not over. It was a strategy to temporarily relieve political pressure. Pay special attention to Agenda 21 and the upcoming Rio+20 meeting.

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Rural kids, parents angry about Labor Dept. rule banning farm chores

GUTHRIE, TX - OCTOBER 24: Cole Hatfield tends to his show steers on the 6666 Ranch October 24, 2007 in Guthrie, Texas on October 24, 2007. (Photo by Rick Gershon/Getty Images)

By Patrick Richardson Journalis

A proposal from the Obama administration to prevent children from doing farm chores has drawn plenty of criticism from rural-district members of Congress. But now it’s attracting barbs from farm kids themselves.

The Department of Labor is poised to put the finishing touches on a rule that would apply child-labor laws to children working on family farms, prohibiting them from performing a list of jobs on their own families’ land.

Under the rules, children under 18 could no longer work “in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials.”

“Prohibited places of employment,” a Department press release read, “would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.”

The new regulations, first proposed August 31 by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, would also revoke the government’s approval of safety training and certification taught by independent groups like 4-H and FFA, replacing them instead with a 90-hour federal government training course.

Rossie Blinson, a 21-year-old college student from Buis Creek, N.C., told The Daily Caller that the federal government’s plan will do far more harm than good.

“The main concern I have is that it would prevent kids from doing 4-H and FFA projects if they’re not at their parents’ house,” said Blinson.

“I started showing sheep when I was four years old. I started with cattle around 8. It’s been very important. I learned a lot of responsibility being a farm kid.”

In Kansas, Cherokee County Farm Bureau president Jeff Clark was out in the field — literally on a tractor — when TheDC reached him. He said if Solis’s regulations are implemented, farming families’ labor losses from their children will only be part of the problem.

“What would be more of a blow,” he said, “is not teaching our kids the values of working on a farm.”

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average age of the American farmer is now over 50.

“Losing that work-ethic — it’s so hard to pick this up later in life,” Clark said. “There’s other ways to learn how to farm, but it’s so hard. You can learn so much more working on the farm when you’re 12, 13, 14 years old.”

John Weber, 19, understands this. The Minneapolis native grew up in suburbia and learned the livestock business working summers on his relatives’ farm.

He’s now a college Agriculture major.

“I started working on my grandparent’s and uncle’s farms for a couple of weeks in the summer when I was 12,” Weber told TheDC. “I started spending full summers there when I was 13.”

“The work ethic is a huge part of it. It gave me a lot of direction and opportunity in my life. If they do this it will prevent a lot of interest in agriculture. It’s harder to get a 16 year-old interested in farming than a 12 year old.”

Weber is also a small businessman. In high school, he said, he took out a loan and bought a few steers to raise for income. “Under these regulations,” he explained, “I wouldn’t be allowed to do that.”

Child Labor Laws | Farming | Department of Labor | The Daily Caller.

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