Child Labor and Agriculture...The Debate Continues
Apr 30, 2012
In this past weekend's commentary (April 29-30, 2012), John Phipps focused on the latest developments in potential child labor regulations on the farm. We're posting a transcript of his comments, followed by viewer reaction.
JOHN'S WORLD COMMENTARY:
THIS WEEK THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ABANDONED EFFORTS TO EXTEND SAFETY REGULATIONS IN PLACE IN OTHER INDUSTRIES TO UNDERAGE, NON-FAMILY FARM EMPLOYEES. THE ACTION WAS TAKEN IN RESPONSE TO A VEHEMENT BACKLASH FROM FARMERS.
THERE ARE SEVERAL CONCLUSIONS THAT CAN BE DRAWN FROM THIS EVENT. IT'S A REMINDER ALL GOVERNMENT RULES REQUIRE PUBLIC BUY-IN. EVEN STIFF PENALTIES WILL NOT ENSURE COMPLIANCE WITH UNPOPULAR RULES, SINCE ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS NEED MORE RESOURCES THAN AGENCIES COULD POSSIBLY MUSTER. CONSIDER HIGHWAY SPEED LAWS, IRS PICKUP MILEAGE RECORDS AND HIGHLY ERODIBLE GROUND. COMPLIANCE IS OFTEN MEDIOCRE AT BEST. AMERICANS ONLY SORT OF OBEY EVEN WHEN THEY GRUDGINGLY AGREE.
THE SECOND IS THESE RULES MAY HAVE HAD A FAIRLY SMALL IMPACT ANYWAY. FARMS THAT DEPEND ON HIRED CHILD LABOR IN THEIR BUSINESS PLAN ARE DISAPPEARING DUE TO THE NATURE OF THE WORK AND RISING RISK OF CIVIL, NOT CRIMINAL, LITIGATION. INSURANCE COMPANIES WILL SPEED THIS PROCESS. THE IDEA THAT CHILDREN WON'T DEVELOP AN INTEREST IN THE FARM UNLESS THEY PARTICIPATE IN THE DISPUTED ACTIVITIES ALSO IGNORES THE THOUSANDS OF FARM PROGENY NOW STREAMING BACK TO TAKE PART IN THE AG BOOM. TRUST ME, IT'S NOT FOND MEMORIES OF HANDLING PESTICIDES, BUT LUCRATIVE SELF-EMPLOYMENT THAT BRINGS THEM HOME.
HOWEVER, FARMING WILL UNDOUBTEDLY REMAIN THE LARGEST CONTRIBUTOR TO CHILD INJURY AND DEATH IN THE WORKPLACE. IT APPEARS TO BE A COST WE CONSIDER UNAVOIDABLE.
Viewer Reaction #1:
I am glad the Department of Labor changed their minds. I was raised in Iowa and helped work on my uncle's farms in Minnesota and Iowa until I was 18. I miss getting up and feeding the livestock and chickens every day and baling hay. OUTSIDE work is the best job I ever had and try to do that now at 62 just mowing yards.
Viewer Reaction #2:
Great comments about the young returning to the farm to enjoy the rewards of hard work from self-employment. Unfortunately, unless highly subsidized from a family member, it's only a dream for many energetic young men and ladies. Current prices of land, machinery, and input expenses have definitely put farming into the High Risk Jobs category. Enjoy your show and thanks for helping us tell our story with correct, factual information.
The "K" Ranch
Viewer Reaction #3:
My dad put me on the new IH 560 when I was five years old in 1960. We headed out to the north to go to Bellona, N.Y. I was between his legs and I steered the tractor. Between that and finding out that I ate some of my pet cow for dinner the night before. Then dad told me I had a new pet cow. You can eat your pet and get a new one. Dad sold out in 1963 and then the big circle around the outside of ag.
Well, if not for all that was done in those early days, I would have never been infected enough to want to farm. I started farming last year and got caught in the drought. The worst crops I ever had. So that statement you made on April 28 the money is bring the kids back to the farm. Maybe. I think a lot of it is genetic. Why else would someone start into something as grueling as farming at age 40 or older? You farm and you also know the different outfits that discouraged their kids not to farm. They pushed to get them to do anything but farm. I was one of those. I got lucky and made it back. I started from scratch and now own more equipment than Dad did. I hope to grow to a size that will support me so I can farm for as long as I want. The price of corn and beans have got high enough to make it possible for me to farm. If the price didn't go up, I don't think there would be many farmers left.
I watch all of you on Channel 68 at 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning. You have a very good show. Question: How many of you have a Droid phone? Like a RAZR phone. Maybe once or twice a month, do a segment on the Droid phone and the apps it supports. Did you know that there is an app that can start the dump pit and dryer and the rest of the facility, all from the cab of your truck? The reason is to get these older guys who can't get past their flip phone. It might help them to move up to the present. Thank you.
Viewer Reaction #4:
I am seeing posts of hoorays and yeas about the latest news: "Department of Labor withdraws rule dealing with children working on farms." I too am glad that the Department of Labor withdrew from governing the work and chores of youngsters who live on a farm and work on the farm, BUT...now it is the responsibility of the parents to educate these kids about the dangers of the areas of the farm.
Almost each day, the national office of Farm Safety 4 Just Kids posts an accident or death on their Facebook page that happened on the farm somewhere in the United States. Is it any wonder why the Department of Labor felt they needed to govern the work of kids on the farm? Just like I wanted for my kids and grandkids, I want all kids to have a good work ethic and know how to work safely on the farm and become the future farmers.
To all farm parents: Take this moment right now to start teaching your child how to be safe on the farm and not just send them out to do adult work without the knowledge of what the work entails. These are your kids, and it is your responsibility to keep your kids safe as well as the kids who visit the farm. Make rules and make sure these rules are understood and that all kids abide by the set rules and safety regulations:
Working member of the Darke County (Ohio) Farm Safety 4 Just Kids