Current Edition

current edition

Oh No, I Can’t Believe It

Written by Dennis Sun

How many times in the last three years have we said, “Oh, no, I can’t believe it,” responding to issues we hear coming out of Washington, D.C.? For the last three years we’ve all been thinking and saying the phrase way too often. In fact, many of us are just getting numb to news from Washington.  

The latest to hit those of us in agriculture is the new proposed rules released by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that would limit youth working in agriculture. We “grey hairs” are thinking, “Good grief, I wish they would have come out with these rules when I was a kid,” but in reality we all know the work load and work ethic we learned is what helped us to mature and become the people we are today, with the values we hold so close. That work ethic and those values are things that take time, patience and, of course, sweat.

Some years back I had a great friend who was a retired bureaucrat from the U.S. Government whose office was in Wyoming. His department had a great record for getting things accomplished, and, when asked why that was, his answer was that he only hired people who grew up on a farm or ranch – they worked until the job was done and they knew how to work. He called it “work brittle.” That may be news to some, but not to those who are involved in agriculture.

So, here we are in another process of getting rules crammed down our throats that say we can’t employ youth under 16 years of age to help on the farm or ranch. Now, it does give an exemption to children of the owners of the farm or ranch, but some say the devil is in the details – it is not as clean of an exception as one would think.  

Craig Anderson of the Michigan Farm Bureau has really looked into the proposed rules and he states, “Here’s what the government thinks is common sense – eliminate work to protect workers. If you don’t work, you can’t be hurt on the job, who can argue with that?”

He goes on to say, “If you thought the new non-agricultural rules prohibiting virtually all employment of youth under 16 were overzealous, the details in this document are downright oppressive. The DOL assumes that youth under age 16 lack the ‘cognitive ability’ to herd animals on horseback, use battery-powered drills, put hay bales on a bale elevator or use any equipment except if powered by hand or foot.”

Anderson says of the ag family exemption, “If the parents or grandparents operate the farm, the grandchildren under 16 wouldn’t be prohibited from working on the operation. Don’t let the spin fool you, the DOL proposal says it will maintain the family exemption, but later limits the exemption for any business or multi-generation farm.” So, the exemption only applies to children of owners, not managers or employees of the farm or ranch. Also, it would eliminate some 4-H, FFA and Extension programs that work with animals.

Hopefully in November 2012 we can all say, “Oh, no. I can’t believe it. We have a new President.”

Dennis