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