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Must be Election Year

Written by Dennis Sun
A few weeks ago, the national press caught wind of President Obama’s farm child labor rule that had agriculture all up in arms. When agriculture, farming and ranching advocates from our nation’s rural communities flooded Washington, D.C. with phone calls and written comments against the rule, the U.S. Department of Labor’s knees buckled.
     When the story went national a couple of weeks ago, it attracted conservative radio and TV, and that attracted hundreds of thousands of readers through Facebook, talk radio shows and other online and social media platforms. The U.S. Labor Department of Labor cited public outcry as the reason for withdrawing the rule. They said, “The decision to withdraw this rule, including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption,’ was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family owned farms, to be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.” Well, let’s hope that is next Jan. 21.
    In its press release, the Labor Department also wrote, “Instead of the rule, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with rural stakeholders – such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, FFA and 4-H to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices.” I can go for that, I just wish someone would have told my family that years ago when they were cutting out horses for us kids to ride – it seems we always got the ones no one else wanted, and for good reason. But that’s part of growing up.    
    You know, if it wasn’t a election year, there is no telling what would have happened to the proposed rule, which would have prohibited youth from places of employment such as country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and auctions, any work with raw farm materials and operating almost all types of power driven equipment. That would have had our youth standing around and just being spectators on the farm and ranch and associated businesses. That would have taught them a work ethic, wouldn’t it?
        The press release went on to say, (are you sitting down), “The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations, the Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations.” I wish the President would say that about Obamacare.
    So now it is the other side’s turn. Child labor groups say they are stunned and disappointed that the Obama administration is backing off from a plan that would have prevented children from working on the most dangerous farm jobs. One quote read, “There was tremendous heat, and I don’t think it helped that it was an election year. A lot of conservatives made a lot of political hay out of this issue.” That’s good news. We need all the hay we can get.
    Dennis