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View from the Hill Blog: No More Chores for Little Johnny
 

By Grace Boatright, National Grange View From The Hill Blog (9/2/11)

  SEPTEMBER 5, 2011 --

No More Chores for Little Johnny if the Department of Labor Gets Its Way

The Labor Department has just proposed a revision to current child labor laws, specifically for children who work on farms. The proposal would ban individuals under the age of 18 from working with animals, handling pesticides, working in timber operations, manure pits, grain elevators, feed lots, livestock auctions, and other areas on a farm the DOL has deemed “unsafe” for children. By law, they could not participate in the cultivation, harvesting, and curing of tobacco and those under age 16 would be banned from operating power-driven farm equipment; aka, tractors, shredders, farm trucks, combines, ATVs, etc. Looking at this long list of don’ts, I’m not sure what else is left for them to help with. 

“Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America,” according to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. Ask any kid who grew up on a farm and they’ll probably laugh at this statement, as would oil drillers, king crab fishermen, policemen, firemen and other individuals whose daily work could literally result in death at any moment. The new urgency to reform child labor laws as it applies to farms is a result of recent grain elevator accidents. According to Purdue University, there were 26 deaths arising from grain elevators in 2010. Unfortunately, six of these fatalities involved individuals under the age of 16. This new campaign to reform the way children contribute to farm work is biased and narrow-minded at best. On average, 300 children under the age of 5 drown each year in swimming pools (Swimming Pools). I don’t recall a government campaign to ban swimming pools, do you?  

Though irrelevant to some, this is no small matter for America’s farming families. For many family farms, children constitute a large portion of their workforce. Banning them from participating in the daily operations of a working farm will dramatically increase the cost of labor for small farmers as they are forced to hire farmhands over the age of 18. The DOL has tried to get around this aspect by saying the proposals would not apply to children working on farms owned by their parents. However, all said proposals would still apply to farms and ranches owned by grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbors, family friends, etc. In other words, it’s a paperwork crisis waiting to happen, and will boil down to whose name is on the mortgage/deed. Farmers are already bogged down with paperwork and regulations, they certainly do not need it generating from within their own households.

This is yet another example of the government playing baby-sitter and over-stepping its boundaries. Unfortunately, accidents will happen and tragedies will occur. It’s just the world we live in. Proposals such as this are costly, unnecessary, time-consuming and infringes on one’s right to conduct business as they see fit. At this rate of government intervention, there’s going to be a new regulation every time someone stubs a toe.

-Grace Boatright
National Grange Programs Assistant

 
 
 
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