Rural kids, parents angry about Labor Dept. rule banning farm chores
By Patrick Richardson
THE DAILY CALLER
25 April 2012
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 its 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 governments 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 governments 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 theyre not at their parents house, said Blinson.
I started showing sheep when I was four years old. I started with cattle around 8. Its 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 Soliss 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 its so hard to pick this up later in life, Clark said. Theres other ways to learn how to farm, but its so hard. You can learn so much more working on the farm when youre 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.
Hes now a college Agriculture major.
I started working on my grandparents and uncles 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. Its 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 wouldnt be allowed to do that.