Call to Action: Child Labor Laws for Agriculture

April 25, 2012 07:03 PM


MarkGold smallTop Third Ag Marketing’s Mark Gold is concerned about the Department of Labor’s proposal to limit children under 18 working "in storing, marketing and transporting farm product raw materials."
He shares this appeal to the American farmer:


It was reported that President Obama is proposing new legislation which prevents youngsters from doing chores on the family farm.
The Department of Labor is putting the final touches on the proposal. "Prohibited places of employment," a Department press release read, "would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.
The new regulations, first proposed Aug. 31 by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, would also revoke the government's approval of safety training and certification taught by independent groups like 4-H and FFA, replacing them instead with a 90-hour federal government training course.
I find it hard to believe that any American farmer would like to see these new laws imposed on them, regardless of your political affiliation.
In response to this, one of my brokers has sent the enclosed letter to the President. I hope you follow suit and contact your federal legislators, if you find this legislation as misguided as I do.

From: Michael B. Howlett, Chicago, IL 60657

Date: April 25, 2012

Subject: Regulatory changes to the Child Labor Laws for agriculture

Dear President Obama,

I am writing in regards to the proposition of child-labor laws prohibiting young farmers and ranchers from performing tasks on farms and other agricultural operations. The roots of this country were sewn in agriculture, and this has been the life-blood of our nation for centuries, working the land to reap all it has to offer. Farmers are the backbone of America. In a time when less than 1% of our population claim farming as their occupation, it is imperative we do all we can to encourage our youth to join farming operations, not abandon them.

I was raised on a family owned farm and grain elevator in rural Western New York. Since before I could walk I was riding in the "Buddy Seat" of tractors with my grandfather and feeding cattle with my dad. As a pre-teen I was spending my summers doing chores and working the land. On the farm, there is always work to be done. If I finished a task, I was to look for another. As an impressionable young man I found immense gratification in working a long day in the sun with Dad and Grandpa. This was hard work; there is no doubt about that. However, this work taught me responsibility, persistence and determination. These are the values that were instilled in me as a boy, and lessons that have stuck through my entire life. I believe these are characteristics every young American should possess, yet are lacking in today's society in a very obvious way.

In May of 2010, I graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree from their school of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences in Ag Business. I am currently employed as a commodities broker in Chicago. At age 24, I work with more than 200 farmers and ranchers from all over the country helping them manage risk associated with the production and marketing of agricultural products. Eventually, I will be returning to my family's operation to continue the Howlett legacy. My childhood on the farm is what propelled me to overachieve in college and to continue my career in the agricultural sector.

I understand it may be difficult for one to grasp the "farm kid" lifestyle and stamp it "child labor" without actually being raised in an agricultural background. In my family, I will be the fifth generation to till the land. I hope one day I will be able to have my son feel the fulfillment of hard work while working on our farm with me, and his grandfather. Please carefully consider my statements and the possible repercussions before you take measures to limit the ability of our youth to be employed in a wholesome, homegrown work environment. Farming is not a career choice you choose halfway through your sophomore year in college. Only one with pre-exposure to the industry will follow the path of farming. Lawyers are made. Bankers are made. Doctors are made. Farmers are not made, we are born to farm.


Mike Howlett
Top Third Ag Marketing
Chicago, Il

Know the Background:

Read the following articles from Farm Journal Media on the subject:
F arm groups say revision is a positive step, but rule still needs more work.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that it will revise part of its controversial farm labor rule that aims to increase protections for youth workers.
Stricter regulations bring new training requirements.
Five facts about the Proposed Child Labor in Agriculture Rule



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