Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Farm is NOT a Sweat Shop

Thankfully the U.S. Department of Labor has figured out that while a kid may work up a sweat bailing hay in the middle of August, farm families should have more leniency than other industries when it comes to putting kids to work.

Today the Department announced strong plans to re-propose the parental exemption portion of the child labor in an agriculture proposed rule to reflect more fully the needs of families in rural communities. Bottom line: for now it’s still OK to let your youngsters help out on the farm. And it looks like their ability to work for family members will be protected in the future.

From the Dept. of Labor’s news release:
The department recognizes the unique attributes of farm families and rural communities. The re-proposal process will seek comments and inputs as to how the department can comply with statutory requirements to protect children, while respecting rural traditions. The re-proposed portion of the rule is expected to be published for public comment by early summer. The department will continue to review the comments received regarding the remaining portions of the proposed rule for inclusion in a final rule.

An advantage of a rural life is that you start building a strong work ethic from the first day you enroll in a 4-H livestock project. I know many 5, 7 and 9 year-olds who take their responsibilities caring for livestock very seriously. It would be a crime to lose that because of strict regulations created a chilling environment for parents and grandparents.

We don’t have kids, but we have certainly benefited from having our friends and neighbor’s children help out working cattle, bailing hay, doing some basic chores. I believe that we’ve also shown a few of these kids that their moms and dads were:
1) not so mean
2) not so hard to work for
3) smarter than the kid gave them credit for
We think those are important lessons to learn before one graduates from high school. Hopefully the rules will allow us to help out in this manner in the future.

This is a great example of where farmers and ranchers can have success when they’re vocal about their way of life. We all still need to pay attention to how the final rule comes together, but the farm community can breathe a little easier today


  1. Where is the US Department of Labor coming from? It always makes me wonder where these politicians came from, what were their roots, when they come up with these types of proposals. Generations ago the farm life is what instilled the strong work ethic in people that built this country. Without that where would we be today, but then again I see how urbanization has made people lazy and all the new technology that has made life easier has also made people less likely to do something physical if they have an alternative that can do the job with less effort.
    I am an untraditional AG person if you want to look at it that way, I grew up most of my life in the city but my parents came from farm backgrounds growing up in the sand hills of western Nebraska. I feel that they passed down the spirit of the farm to us girls “I have two sisters” they were hard workers, moral and up standing. When I was in Jr. High we moved outside of Ft. Collins, CO to a dairy where my dad milked cows. That was my first experience living in that environment. We joined 4-H and bought some ewe’s to have lambs to show at the fair. It was a great time in my life. I now had a different set of chores to do getting up early in the morning to feed the lambs; my ewe had triplets the first year, four the next and five the third year. So, we had some bottle feeding to do. It taught me a greater appreciation for farm life and helped teach me responsibility, dedication to completing a project, and that hard work produces great results.
    If it wasn’t for the FFA program that my children were able to be a part of in the small community we live in, in Missouri they wouldn’t have learned some of those same attributes that I learned the few years I lived on the farm. So, that is why I returned to school at the age of 49, three and a half years ago to get my degree in Agriculture Education so I could help instill these same qualities in others. With only two percent of Americans in Agriculture we need to be teaching the rest where the food they eat, and the clothes they wear come from. Bring back the values of hard work that helps to instill pride in oneself for a job well done. Getting back to the news release from the Dept. of Labor where they say “The department recognizes the unique attributes of farm families and rural communities. The re-proposal process will seek comments and inputs as to how the department can comply with statutory requirements to protect children, while respecting rural traditions”. Well I am glad that because of the outrage of the two percent who are in agriculture, have stood up and made their voice heard on the content of this proposal and how you can’t just put everything in a neat box for everyone. I understand that there may be circumstances where children are being used unfairly for labor but you can’t just put them into one big group with one solution.

  2. Thank God sanity has returned. It just seems like whomever is in power, the regulations just grow and grow.

  3. Life currently has me sitting behind a desk, in an office, with a very mixed variety of individuals. Politics affect my way of living more now than ever and are a common topic of conversation in our office. When the Department of Labor first proposed their new child labor laws pertaining to children on the farm, my first thought was how absurd; how could anyone actually see the rural way of life this way. However, more disturbingly than the DoL bill itself was the reaction in my office one day when this topic arose.
    On the front page of the Daily Oklahoman was an article about this proposed law and in a staff meeting that morning, many co-workers were discussing this article and how 'it was about time this was taken control of to keep our children from being killed.' I often take for granted that although Oklahoma is an 'agricultural' state, so many in the population still understand nothing about the rural way of life. I quickly joined this conversation on the 'cruelties' of our children and asked them to consider the other side of the story:
    Growing up in Kansas, my father's side of the family all lived within 5 miles. My grandfather with the homestead, two uncles who farmed full-time, and my father who was an ag teacher by day and farmer by night; this created our family farm. I didn't grow up at the city pool or ‘dragging main’. My big week each year was the county fair where I was given the opportunity to learn about being a good sport during competition; I had the chance to exhibit my hard work from all year in my projects, and on occasion, I learned that work ethic can lead to success. And if I didn’t win, I still had the opportunity to learn many lessons that have stuck with me through the rest of my life.
    Work ethic, helping others, and being a part of a team were all values established in my life on the farm for as long as I can remember. The risks involved with being on a farm developed my attention to detail and taught me to be aware of my surroundings, and most of all, having the responsibility from a young age to care for other living things taught me more about the circle of life than a book ever could.
    Although the DoL has issued their statement to announce they are reconsidering their laws, I am terrified for any of these childhood freedoms to be taken away, whether it be from working on a parent, uncle, grandfather or neighbor’s farm. All of these experiences provided me a great deal of character that I desperately want to be able to provide my own children someday.
    On this occasion, I was just thankful I could provide a personal take on one of the many proposed laws from our government and I wanted to say thank you for providing your experiences on this topic as well. This ruling will greatly affect our children’s future and is certainly something we must follow closely as it is worth fighting for!

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  6. It is completely wild to me that Department of Labor even considered implementing labor laws on farms. Even if they did pass them, how can you regulate hundreds of completely rural farm areas? I'm glad to know that children can still work on farms. If some city folk had any idea what great values are instilled in children working and doing chores at a young age at a young age, this issue wouldn't have even been brought up.

  7. Why you are not writing new post in this blog? We love to read latest farm news.