My 2 Cents about Changes to Child Labor Regulations
Oct 19, 2011
As a parent and farmer, I have been stewing over the proposed changes to Child Labor Regulations by the U.S. Department of Labor. I decided I could not stay quiet on the matter.
I respect the need to improve safety on the farm especially for children and we all can find news stories of agriculture related injury or death to children. The safety of my family is extremely important to me.
However, I have to ask can we exercise some Common Sense with the new Child Labor Regulations?
Proposing new provisions for Children employed in Agriculture
- Children under the age of 18 cannot work with Animals and handle Pesticides.
- No one under the age of 18 can work on timber operation, at grain elevator-grain bins-silos-feedlots-stockyards-livestock exchanges-livestock auctions.
- Children under 16 would be prohibited to operate most power-driven equipment including connection and disconnecting implements.
- All Youth cannot operate electronic devices while operating equipment including Global Positioning Systems (GPS).
As I look over the revisions, I reflect on common jobs for high schoolers:
- Working at hog confinement or feedlot facility
- Soil Testing Fields-Pulling Samples (Use GPS and ATVs)
- Worked in the Cattle show barns rinsing calves-feeding animals and other duties including preparing for cattle sales or shows.
- Feedmill – stacking bags to grinding feed
- Grain Elevators- My Personal experience, I grow up as a grain elevator brat. In high school I was employed at my parent’s company keeping the books for feed customers, testing grain, running the scales, and other odd jobs (lifting feed bags into vehicles for customers).
- Set-up Gates at the Livestock Auction House
- Ran tractors and other equipment on Grain Farm.
- Baling Hay
All the listed jobs above if hired by the agriculture business or farmers, seasonal or not, would be in violations of the proposed standards. So how many of you have held one of these positions?
Clearly, I support safety of Children but I also believe in learning by doing. These new provisions will prevent agriculture from teaching young adults skills in agriculture. In addition, as a farmer I could not hire a cousin or nephew or niece. Likewise, a grandparent could not employ their grandkids.
All 4-Hers and FFAers are not bless enough to live on the farm but eager to explore the world of agriculture through employment or internships. FFAers especially use farm labor as their Supervised Agriculture Experience.
For example, my daughter now 13 wants to be a large animal veterinarian. I am not a vet by trade. I would want her to seize opportunities to learn with experts in that field in high school or beyond.
Yes, I do realize the proposed changes do exempt my children working on my farm and I am thankful I have started them on the path of owning their own animals-Yes my daughter has paid taxes. If the child owns the animal then you cannot ban them from working with them.
I also have to wonder how the Dept. of Labor would look at my parents employing my brothers, sisters, and myself at the Grain Elevator. I admit I was not in the grain pit because my parents had the common sense to realize that is a dangerous job for young adults but I did pinch my fingers many time manually using the probe to gather grain samples grain trucks. Since, I am Vertical challenged, I had to climb up above my height to collect samples [yes- using ladders over 5ft is no-no for children in these revisions].
Obviously, I do not have the answers and some of the proposed changes make sense. However banning young adults from working with animals or learning new skills by running equipment seems extreme. Food for thought: Maybe the young adult have to complete safety courses.
The fact remains we can not stay silent on the issue. The agriculture community needs to educate the U.S. Department of Labor on the logistics of these changes. The agriculture community will be facing workers NOT trained properly in the field of agriculture and more importantly preventing us to encourage children not raise on the farm to explore a career in agriculture.
Join us by posting your respectful comments online, the U.S. Department of Labor, by November 1, 2011 or by Mail: Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor, Room S-3502 200 Constitution Avenue N.W. Washington, D.C. 20210. Identify comments with RIN 1235-AA06.