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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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USA: Eight Firms Plan to Develop Wind Farms Offshore Virginia

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As reported by the Associated Press, the potential of the project, aimed at developing wind turbines in the U.S., situated off the Virginia cost and encompassing circa 113,000 acres in the Atlantic Ocean, has been recognized by numerous investors including European ones.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in charge of supervising offshore wind development, published the names of companies that submitted the necessary documentation in order to be eligible for project implementation, those being:

Arcadia Offshore Virginia LLC, New Jersey based branch of Arcadia Windpower, Cirrus Wind Energy Inc., based in Nevada; enXco Development Corp., based in California; Fishermen’s Energy LLC, based in New Jersey; Iberdrola Renewables Inc., an American subsidiary of a Spanish company with offices on the West and East coasts; Orisol Energy US Inc., another Spanish offshoot with American offices in Michigan; Apex Virginia; and Dominion Resources.

The paperwork will be scrutinized by the government regulators, in order to determine what company meets the technical and economic prerequisites in order to be able to push forward with the project implementation.

On March 27, Virginia regulators gave their consent to what might be the first offshore wind turbine built in the United States. Even though the prototype turbine still awaits approval of the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers, it is said that it will be located in Chesapeake Bay and be able to meet the power needs of 1,250 households. The capacity of the wind turbine will equal to 5 megawatts of electricity and it should be ready for production by the end of 2013.

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