AmericanFarm.com

In a word: ‘Whew!’ (Editorial)

Not many things are as foreboding as when a grower learns of a sudden weather forecast of snow and ice just hours after he/she has planted still-fragile seeds in soft, worked-up soil.
And the relief is unmistakeable when a crippling storm never materializes, leaving the potential crop still-unharmed.
That is the type of rollercoaster ride that farmers and ranchers across the country survived recently as the U.S. Department of Labor wrestled with the idea of pushing forward legislation that would have banned children younger than 18 from doing practically any chore on a farm.
The intended pie-in-the-sky result was an admirable one: To keep kids safe. According to the Child Labor Coalition, 75 percent of children in 2010 who were killed from work-related injuries were ag-related.
But there is no real-world practicality to the heavy-handed regulation that would have ignored the reality of small-farm life.
Fortunately, and in the wake of heavy pressure from farm groups, the Labor Department relented and withdrew the proposal that would have banned children younger than 16 from using most power-driven farm equipment, including tractors.
The rules also would have prevented those younger than 18 from working in feed lots, grain bins and stockyards.
The language of the proposed rule was so specific it would even ban youth from operating a battery powered screwdriver or a pressurized garden hose.
The restrictions also would have limited participation in 4-H and FFA activities, as they are currently known.
Children whose families owned the farm would have been permitted to work the traditional farm chores, though originally, the proposal would have included them, too.
The Labor Department said its change of heart was a result of thousands of comments that expressed concern about the impact of the changes on small family-owned farms.
The idea was an honorable one, and intended to keep children safe, but it just didn’t apply to real-world reality as it was written.
Luckily, the storm never emerged.