The US Department of Labor has proposed new rules that would eliminate a large chunk of what kids under 16 years of age can do on a farm:
- The changes would:
- Exempt children working on farms owned 100 percent by their parents from most of the new rules.
- Strengthen rules for working with animals, pesticides, timber operations, manure pits and storage bins.
- Prohibit workers under 16 from operating almost all power-driven equipment.
- Prohibit youth in both agricultural and nonagricultural employment from using cell phones, walkie-talkies, etc. while operating power-driven equipment.
- Prohibit farmworkers under 16 from participating in cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco.
Here is an important point regarding #1:
Partnerships between parents and children or siblings would mean their children would not be exempt.
To Murdoc, this seems like a pretty major exemption for the exemption. I don’t have any overall numbers, but many of the “family farms” run by people I know are partnerships between family members. If two brothers are partners on a family farm, neither brother’s kids would be eligible to drive a tractor.
Full disclosure: Murdoc grew up on a farm in Minnesota. Murdoc operated all sorts of heavy equipment at a young age. He also learned important safety tips like “Stay the ‘F’ away from that P.T.O. shaft!” (Although Murdoc’s dad, uncles, and grandfather would never have used that ‘F’ word, he’s pretty sure they meant it anyway, more or less…)
More from the article:
Alto farmers Bob and Jami Goble are the sole owners of their farm where they have about 175 beef cattle, so their children are not affected. But they won’t be hiring anymore high school students, Jami Goble said.
“I find it ridiculous that this is even something they’re trying to pass,” she said. “Most farm kids are very well-rounded individuals and I have a hard time imagining that someone wants to end that.”
Mrs. Goble, Murdoc is pretty sure that ending the existence of “very well-rounded individuals” is exactly what a lot of people want.
Even restricting the use of cell phones and walkie-talkies while driving a tractor or farm truck, which might seem like a reasonable move at first glance to non-farmers, would be a hardship. This is the 21st century. Many of the things that keep our farmers able to feed people are due to technological advances. It’s not at all the same situation as cell phone use while driving a car on a public roadway. Suddenly Uncle Jim can’t call Bobby and have him bring the trailer to the back field.
One day in the early 80s, young Murdoc was driving a John Deere 4630 in the field out back, pulling a trailer for his dad, uncle, and older cousin who were picking up (or maybe putting down) a pipeline for an irrigation system. Murdoc certainly had the best job out there that day, as what was being pumped through those pipes was NOT cool, clean water, and the pipes stank to high heaven. Anyway, my dad had to run back and forth from where they were working to tell me where to take the tractor next. At some point while I sat idle, I zoned out a bit and my dad couldn’t get my attention. So he threw a clod of dirt at the tractor so I would get it in gear again. The whole morning probably took twice as long as it needed to due to all the running back and forth and delays due to inability to communicate easily.
The Department of Labor wants farmers to stop using 21st century communications devices and go back to using clods of dirt.
Of course, as our “family farm” was not 100% owned by my father, I wouldn’t have been driving that tractor in the first place under these new rules. We would have had to use an adult employee all morning to sit in a tractor and do what nearly any 9-year-old could do.
Never mind the effect these new restrictions would have on kids, and Murdoc thinks the effects would be significantly damaging. The impact on farmers would be noticeable. Which would create a noticeable impact on food prices. Which would create a noticeable impact on the economy. Which would lead, of course, to additional government meddling to help all the poor people who can barely get by.
It’s almost like there’s a plan, or something.