There was time that if you grew up on a farm or a ranch, that meant you, got up early in the mornings, had chores to do, and some really long days. Children worked alongside their parents to help raise the crops and care for the animals. The work was hard. For some of us, it was a great experience; for others not so great.
Since those days, farming has changed. Today most farms are corporations, or partnerships, or some other kind of business entity. The idea of tilling a couple hundred acres of land and planting crops to sell in the fall are gone; now it is more like working a couple thousand acres, livestock, plus some kind of off-farm income and maybe some agri-tourism. When planting or harvest comes around, it becomes a 24 hour/day operation. While having a teenager drive a Harvester International 300 for four or five hours to till the ground isn?t a big deal, it is totally something different to put that same teen at the controls of a Williams Big Bud 747 for 12 to 14 hours. The chemicals used on today?s farm are super-potent, In some cases, if Sanford?s Trauma 1 helicopter was standing by at the scene, they still couldn?t get someone who has been exposed some mixes of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides to the hospital in time. Farming is dangerous work, one of the most dangerous.
The United States Department of Labor also thinks so, and wants to protect our children from these dangers. They have proposed 85 pages of changes that affect child labor rules. Many of the proposed rules deal with what children can and can?t do on a farm. Some of the rules are only common sense
Prohibit the use of most electronic devices, including communication devices, while operating power-driven machinery, including automobiles, tractors, farm implements and woodworking machines.
Some of them go way overboard
Bring parity to the agricultural and nonagricultural child labor provisions by, for the first time, limiting farm work involving occupations in construction, communications, roofing, at elevations greater than 6 feet, wrecking, demolition, and the operation of most power-driven equipment and manually operated hoists.
Even if the new rules do go into effect, we won?t have to worry about these youngsters not having any job opportunities
·By removing a 40-year-old provision that generally limits the employment of 14- and 15-year-olds to jobs in retail, food service, and gasoline service establishments, the rule opens up safe and positive employment opportunities in industries such as advertising, banking, and information technology.
The Final Rule allows 14- and 15-year-olds to perform work of an intellectual or artistic nature in establishments that were previously prohibited. Such work includes computer programming, drawing, and teaching.
Does this open up a can of worms that we can’t close?
- Does this open up call centers to hiring teenagers? (Cube farming?)
- 14 year olds with access to my banking information? (think again)
- 16 year olds teaching? What subjects would they teach to who?
Scott Ehrisman over at South Dacola is all in favor for these changes, and Senator John Thune and Representative Noem are against the new rules. That alone is reason enough to be against them. However, there are even better reasons.
- The average age of our farmer is about 57 and getting older. We are going to need experienced farmers to take their place when they retire. What better way to get experience then working a farm with an already experienced farmer they already trust.
- Parents are supposed to be responsible for upbringing of their children. Working as part of team member on a farm teaches many valuable lessons skills that can?t be taught in schools. I don?t know of a single parent that will willing put their son or daughter at risk, just to benifit the farm. Why not trust the parents with their kids, we already know we can?t trust the federal government.
- One of the mainstays at the McCrossan Boys Ranch is farm/ranch work. How will these new rules affect them?
If you talk to anyone who does any hiring, all other thing being equal they will hire a farm kid over a city kid most of the time. The kid that was raised on the farm is not afraid of hard work, or do the less glamorous jobs. He will take pride in a job ?well done?
I can appreciate what the Department of Labor is trying to do here. They are trying to protect children from getting hurt. Kids have been helping out on the ‘family’ farm since biblical times. Farming then wasn’t about turning a profit, it was about survival. Farming has changed, families have changed, technology has changed, our world is changing and quite frankly, the Departmetn of Labor have not. All of sudden they want to spring 40 years of updates on us at one time. They would do well to get out of their office and spend some time on a ‘real’ family farm and sees what really goes on.