‘Terribly offensive’ provisions of child-labor proposal cited

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U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) has been trying to get a face-to-face meeting with U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis on proposed regulations governing child labor on farms. But she has declined, leaving it up to her staff.   

He even invited her to come to Kansas and meet with farm families.

Solis did hear his objections to the proposed regulations a few weeks ago when she appeared in front of a congressional subcommittee.

However, if further attempts to convince her fail, legislative efforts are under way to keep the regulations from taking effect.  

Moran, along with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), is sponsoring such legislation in the Senate to go along with legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa).

Instead of accepting the Department of Labor’s contention (as well as the Department of Agriculture’s) that the proposed regulations aren’t to worry about, Moran is fighting back.

“I’m going to worry. I’m going to worry on behalf of Kansas constituents and I am going to worry on behalf of American family farmers,” he told an AgriTalk radio audience on Tuesday. “I just see this as a huge issue.”

He called some of the provisions “terribly offensive” and symptomatic of the “ever-expanding role of government in our lives.”  

Among other things, the proposed regulations would prohibit children under the age of 16 from operating certain farm machinery, working at elevations over 6 feet, or doing anything that would inflict harm on an animal.

“If the regulations are taken at their face value, a young person would be prohibited from using a battery-driven screwdriver, Moran said.

And it also raises questions about the role of government.

“If the federal government, in this case the Department of Labor, can regulate the relationship between parents and their own children working on their own farms, what is off-limits for the federal government to be involved in?’ he asked.

Officials from the Department of Agriculture point out that the regulations will not apply to children who work for their parents. Yet, questions remain as to whom the children work for in the case of farm corporations and farm partnerships, and the Department of Labor announced last month that it would re-visit the “parental exemption” clause in those cases.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has acknowledged that farm work is an American tradition “and it teaches kids lessons that last a lifetime.”

“However, statistics show that while only 4 percent of working youth are in the agricultural sector, 40 percent of fatalities of working kids are associated with machines, equipment or facilities related to agriculture. That’s way too high,” Vilsack said in December. “We don’t want to blur the line between teaching kids about a good day’s work and putting them in situations more safely handled by adults.”

Yet, it is unclear how the government would enforce such regulations.

Moran says time is getting short. He has heard that the Department of Labor intends to finalize the regulations this summer — probably July. In the meantime, people can go to the web site  www.keepfamiliesfarming.com where comments are being solicited and will be forwarded to the Department of Labor.

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Ohio  |  March, 28, 2012 at 08:18 AM

The government has their fingers in WAY TOO MUCH. I agree that children should be protected and careful considersation by each family farmer (not including corporate farms) should determine the maturity level, the safety issues, the what if's of each young person. There should be balance in this and as always.. when the government gets involved, it is at a ridiculous level and massive others things are attached to the original intent. Safety first and always...but be level headed about this.

ohio  |  March, 28, 2012 at 09:17 AM

Amy could you please tell us what a corporate farm is?

Dan Martens    
Foley MN  |  March, 28, 2012 at 08:24 AM

I'd like to see an article provide good information about farm safety data for children. I realize that one child that dies in a farm accident situation is a tragedy. This article says 40% of fatalities involved equipment etc. I'd like to know how many fatalities for each of the last 5 years; What was the specific nature of each fatality; How many as members of farm families; how many cousins or grandchildren; how friends visiting on the farm; how many non-family actually working on the farm.

Dan Martens    
Foley MN  |  March, 28, 2012 at 08:24 AM

I'd like to see an article provide good information about farm safety data for children. I realize that one child that dies in a farm accident situation is a tragedy. This article says 40% of fatalities involved equipment etc. I'd like to know how many fatalities for each of the last 5 years; What was the specific nature of each fatality; How many as members of farm families; how many cousins or grandchildren; how friends visiting on the farm; how many non-family actually working on the farm.

Pullman WA  |  March, 28, 2012 at 08:47 AM

This article is "terribly offensive". It is inflamatory and partisan. It is typical of what passes as "journalism" these days. It quotes some lawmakers without letting us know the actual provisions nor does it actually look at the claims like "a young person would be prohibited from using a battery operated screwdriver". Like Dan, I would like to have actual information about farm fatalities, and machine operation.

Illinois  |  March, 28, 2012 at 08:40 AM

One child's death is terrible, but how many childern died in urban areas by their parents own hands. How many inner city young died from drug overdose .They need to clean up these big messes and leave the child labor issues alone. Which at worse is a very small issue nation wide.

kansas  |  March, 28, 2012 at 09:37 AM

Troll alert! Carolyn, obviously, is an Urban culture warrior who waits for any opportunity to promote Nanny State intervention in Ag. Amy? Hard to tell, but the "corporate" comment tends to make her seem the same. Nice to see at least one Politician stand-up to the Jackboot Bureaucratic take-over. And we should all note that one Administration Bureau Head is ignoring Elected Representative of the people's objection, while another is defending an indefensible attack on personal liberty and farm family autonomy.

K Amy    
Pennsylvania  |  March, 28, 2012 at 10:54 AM

To the first Amy, My husband and I are part of a "Corporate" farm. We formed a corporation to separate my husband, his brother, and his parents' assets from the assets of the farm. We are still a family farm, employing only 3 persons who are not direct family members. My children help with the farm work by feeding calves and helping their daddy with his work in the fields with the crops and taking care of the cows. This farm is their future, and to say that they cannot work with their father and uncle to learn how to care for animals and this land that we have been given by former generations is absurd. They are the next generation, the ones to carry on what my husband has worked his entire life to create, what he loves to do. He has been a dairy farmer his entire life, and to say that his children cannot help him further OUR dreams is wrong. My children love the animals as much as we do. This is not an issue for the government to regulate in any way.

Monroe, WI.  |  March, 28, 2012 at 03:29 PM

I completely agree with K Amy. I don't think it matters how big or small the farm is. What matters is the responsibility of the parents to pick the right job for your child. Farm work is tough no matter the age, but appropriate jobs for the age makes a world of difference. Accidents are a very bad thing and shouldn't be taken lightly, but government really needs to butt out of the situation. I think farmers know better than anyone what their own child can handle. Ron made a very valid point. How often do we read in the paper or see on the news children being injured or killed by peers or parents or suicide? When is that going to stop? Government needs to help those kids more. How about the over 2 millions living in the streets? Let's set our priorities.

Texas  |  March, 28, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Here is a link that makes at least one point. According to the article, 71% of farm related accidents and 84% of deaths aren't work related. I fear that the Department of labor is using total numbers to justify their decisions. I'm reminded of my accounting professor in college telling the class to remember, "Figures don't lie, but liars figure!" Far more children are injured and killed in bicycle accidents and swimming pools. The government is continually blasting children for not getting out and being active and playing. The reality is that the more that children play, the more they will be injured. If I never climbed a tree, I would never fall out and break my arm. Of course, the shame of that scenario is I'd never know how high I could climb either.

Texas  |  March, 28, 2012 at 11:41 AM

Sorry, failed to put the link. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/03/12/farm-hazards-a-serious-threat-to-kids-study-finds

Texas  |  March, 28, 2012 at 11:44 AM

Having trouble getting the link to post. May be that it isn't allowed.

ohio  |  March, 28, 2012 at 12:32 PM

likely there are some kids out there that don't know how high they can climb, but they can tell you how high they can get on they can get on a video game

Idaho  |  March, 28, 2012 at 12:28 PM

I am a college student who grew up in the smack dab middle of the city. My grandpa has a 600 acre dairy farm in Idaho that I spent winter breaks, spring breaks, and summers at. I did my share to earn my keep around here. If it wasn't for him I would never have known what 4H was and how it would impact my life and my friends around me. I showed dairy cows, beef cows, dairy goats, meat goats, held my share of offices in my clubs, attended leadership camps, made lifelong friends, got a chance to go to Washington DC and figured out what I wanted to do in life. Yes the farm is not 100% safe, nothing is. You live and you learn. If I had to wait till I was 16 to help out around here, God only knows how naive I would have been. Children learn the most between the ages of 5 and 12. With this background I am now studying Animal Sciences with a minor in Agriculture Business Management. I hope to be a business consultant for farmers one day. Fall down seven times, stand up eight. Life hurts, that's what doctors are for.

FL  |  March, 28, 2012 at 02:07 PM

Great comments Mandi. You need to be a spokesperson for agriculture. Your comments mirror mine. Being raised on a farm taught me from day one what life was all about. Seeing animals born, and die. Seeing seeds planted and grow...sometimes taken in just one hail storm to hardly any crop at all. Farming is a great way to "grow up" and to learn how to work. Danger, yes, but that is the responsibility of parents and employers - not our government.

Kentucky  |  March, 28, 2012 at 02:14 PM

Mandi is my hero! We need a whole lot more young people like her. We should send her to talk to the Sec of Labor.

Wisconsin  |  March, 28, 2012 at 09:26 PM

I agree with a lot of you instead of complaining about the problem after it happens why don't they fix it before it happens. There is a class in my area called Tractor Safety. Instead of just saying kids can't operate this machinery why not say in order to run this equipment a child has to go thru and pass the tractor safety course. My biggest issue with this article is one that most have been over looking "doing anything that would inflict harm on an animal"<<< now by whose standards are we basing this harm to animals. I work on a farm and some of the things that need to get done unfortunately will cause the animal some discomfort. So are they trying to slip that in there so that they can get rid of the dehorning that NEEDS to be done, or what about giving vaccinations is that considered harm, or ear tagging, heck some people think that milking them does harm.... I personally think that some animal activist rights group is partially behind this. I think kids need to be involved in all that needs to be done with the animals because it teaches them respect for the animal and how to do things in the least painful way for the animal!!!!!

MS  |  March, 29, 2012 at 09:41 AM

I too have a family dairy farm that is incorporated. I don't think the corporation status should prevent farm children from working and helping their family. My 8 yr old son knows more about farming than I did at 18. He works hard and enjoys it! He has actually cried when I wouldn't let him go to the barn because of school work or an illness. I agree with others, the parents should be the ones to determine what a child is ready for. My husband is VERY safety minded and would not allow our children to do more than they are capable to do safely!

oh  |  March, 29, 2012 at 02:04 PM

I don't think Amy's reference to "corporate farms" has the same meaning as you all are attaching to it. you are talking family operations that have been incorporated, Amy seems to have that misguided "big ag" thing goin on. what is big ag?

Powers, MI  |  March, 29, 2012 at 06:07 PM

It is great to read all the great comments you are all leaving. We all (farmers and farm supporters) need to stick together and not let the government ram their rules down our thoarts'. I agree strongly with those who have commented a parent should be the person to make decisions about their own child. We also have to back it up with the why, and that is being presented in this forum also. I am a middle age farmer preparing for my children to become a perment part of our farm operation. I know many of their friends who have come to the farm and helped with various jobs; that still stop in from time to time because they miss the feeling of belonging they felt when they worked with us.

U.S.  |  March, 30, 2012 at 08:23 AM

The fact is people aren't protecting children in fields. This fight is framed to put farm-owning families in an uproar. The reality is the change in policy affects nearly 1/2million of the migrant labor force. You, my friends, have been duped. If you own a corporate farm AND you DO NOT use a labor contractor - these regs. don't apply to you. HOWEVER, if you DO use a labor contractor, you and that labor contractor will be violating child labor laws IF that child is working under the proposed policies. The fact is this: Children, not yours and not mine, are once again being used as a political platform. In more than a decade of working with agricultural laborers, we've seen TWO who weren't Hispanic. Get the facts. Don't let politicians pull your chains. www.ncfield.org http://bit.ly/z8tjQv Visit images @farmworkerkids (Twitter)

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