Feds regulate farm chores for kids

My kids’ friends that I like the most are farm kids. It’s simple. Working on a farm makes kids hard-working and responsible. When my kids complain about their chores, I love that I can point to their friends who come home from school to do real chores — the kind that entail braving the cold barn and doing things that impact their families’ bottom line. That puts organizing your sock drawer in perspective fast.

Well now the federal government is stepping in to regulate the kind of work kids can do on a farm – no helping out in the silo, grain bins or elevators and no working at the livestock exchange or auction. While the regulations technically exclude kids working on their parent’s farm, but what if Jimmy works on grandma’s farm or Uncle Joe is paying his niece to help him out with the livestock? And where does it end? It’s a slippery slope. Like an octopus, government’s tendency is to reach further and further into our lives.

Other casualties in the war on American work ethic are 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America. In addition to the impact a livestock exchange or auction ban would have on the clubs, the US Labor Department wants to replace the clubs’ training programs with a federally approved 90-hour course, making it all but prohibitive for the average kid to participate.

As one farmer described the new regulations, the biggest, “blow is not teaching our kids the values of working on a farm. Losing that work-ethic – it’s so hard to pick this up later in life.”

As a parent, I can’t think of a more cautionary example of the perils of big government. The sense of purpose gained from contributing to a family or neighbor’s enterprise harkens us back to a traditional American model of self-reliance, precisely at a time when nearly half of US kids and 90% of African-American kids are being raised on government food stamps.

I live in a farming state and area. This is an attack on the Wisconsin way of life that will not only change how family farms are run, but who we are for generations to come.



  • HyacinthClare

    We don’t believe you, Hendy. You’re a ringer and we know it, burying us in words that say “Nothing to see here, move along.” WHERE DID ANY GOVERNMENT AGENCY GET THIS POWER IN THE FIRST PLACE AND HOW DO WE TAKE IT BACK FROM THEM?? If the president wasn’t in an election, do you think he’d have retreated from this? Not a chance. WHERE DO THESE REGULATIONS COME FROM AND HOW CAN THEY BE STOPPED FOR GOOD??

    • Hendy


      – What, specifically, don’t you believe? I tried to cite my sources where possible.

      – A ringer? What does that mean?

      – I honestly don’t know what the president would have done were this not an election year.

      – I’m not sure where the government “got this power in the first place.” I’m also not sure how this would be better were some other administration in office. I’m no fan of the war, though Republicans tend to support such efforts. How do I “take this power back from them” so my tax dollars aren’t spent on what I don’t support? And were this ~5 years ago and I was on a blog complaining about the war… would you agree that “big government” should relinquish its power to spend my tax dollars or would you support the mission?

      I’m trying to understand what people are aiming at — no regulations of any kind on anything?

      Would you like to take up maintaining (paving, running the sewer lines under, etc.) the sidewalk and street in front of your house? Do you want nutrition information removed from food? Should I be able to formulate and sell anything I choose as a medication in nation-wide drug stores because I give my word that it works?

  • Hendy

    There’s so much misinformation here it’s silly.

    1) As of now, the proposed changes appear to have been withdrawn.

    2) The bill never affected children working on their own family’s farm to begin with. Quoting from the actual Aug 2011 DOL proposal itself (does anyone writing on sites like this ever think to link to the actual texts they’re criticizing?):

    The proposed agricultural revisions would impact only hired farm workers and in no way compromise the statutory child labor parental exemption involving children working on farms owned or operated by their parents. (Page… wait for it… 1)

    3) The regulations, as far as I can tell, only apply to moderate to high risk activities anyway. Nothing’s stopping you from teaching your kid good work ethic around the farm. They simply don’t want younger-ish folks working on things that might harm them.

    4) There’s already regulations about operating this equipment. Like, right now. Like, with the same force as minimum wage regulations, as in everyone is supposed to be following them. Go read the current Child Labor Standards Act and you’ll see that the proposals above, from what I can tell, only bump up the age from 16 to 18 for the same exact tasks already regulated. The comments about all of this make it sound like the government is just now preventing 10 year olds from pitching in by driving the tractor at harvest time. And if the backlash is because family farms already break those regulations… then who cares about a change to something that isn’t followed and can’t be enforced anyway?

    5) It would be fascinating to find out just how much child labor boosts farm productivity. Even with a large family and two year spacing of children, we’re talking 1-2 kids that can do any of the regulated heavy stuff under current regulations (a 16 and 18 year old, prior to the 18 yr old going to college, if that’s what he does). Yes, this is significant, but comments below suggest that these 1-2 part time employees removal would threaten farms all across America.

    The bottom line is that there’s nothing preventing anyone from becoming interested in farming; there’s simply regulations preventing doing certain things. This isn’t about “big government;” they’re just regulating a potentially dangerous set of tasks. One interesting quote from the initial announcement concerning machinery regulations was as follows:

    Additionally, the proposal would prohibit farmworkers under 16 from operating almost all power-driven equipment. A similar prohibition has existed as part of the nonagricultural child labor provisions for more than 50 years.

    In other words, we figured out 50 years ago that children probably shouldn’t be working on certain types of equipment. This proposal seems to have just been extending it to farming as well.

    I truly don’t want to use scare tactics, but I was curious to how hard it would be to find instances of children dying while conducting farming work. Turns out, it’s really not hard at all. Not even close.

  • Karen

    This is interesting because the farm labor laws have clearly allowed exploitation of immigrants and child labor by AGRI-BUSINESS without protection by OSHA or workers’ compensation. No FARM PARENT would allow their children to work in silos or with heavy equipment when under-age. ONLY those farms which are SUBCONTRACTED to AGRI-BUSINESS are doing this. It’s time for we Catholics to support Child Labor legislation in Agriculture and to support a Guest Worker program that regulates wages, taxes, and workers’ compensation insurance for farm related injuries for those who work in the farming industry.

  • annonymous

    Guess our government doesn’t want to eat in the future, cause children raised on and allowed to work on the farm is how they learn to farm themselves. So the question is who will farm to produce our crops and meat 15 to 20 yrs from now? As for me and my household, our children will learn farming as they grow, regardless of what our government thinks or says.

  • Derek

    I grew up on a dairy farm in south Louisiana. (Just to the west of where Swamp People is filmed). I would give anything to go back to that simple life. It was harder work, but if it would pay the bills I would do it in a heartbeat.

  • Brian A. Cook



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