Keep Your Eye on the Ball: Remain Vigilant on Farm Youth Rules

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I’d like to take about 10 seconds to celebrate the win agriculture experienced after the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced it was withdrawing its rules that would have applied child labor laws to youth working on farms.  I’d also like to thank all of the people who had the foresight to see what these regulations would have done to farm families and the disastrous effect they would have on 4-H and FFA programs. It took a strong voice to make the DOL back down, yet the agricultural community was heard.

However, I honestly believe those of us in agriculture can’t afford to celebrating for longer than 10 seconds.  Why?  That’s because when the U.S. government isn’t launching an investigation or issuing new rules, it’s developing a new program.  This is also an election year, and history has proven that crazy things happen around and shortly thereafter elections.

Larry’s grandson, Darin, helping him last weekend. “I don’t make Darin work. He wants to help!”

After reading the DOL’s statement, I realized it really isn’t backing away from this issue.  Oh, no!  “The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers.”  This statement is like a waving red flag because it’s a significant change in wording.  When the new youth farm labor regulations were first announced, there was no mention about the Obama administration.  It was all about the Department of Labor.  Now the Obama Administration is stepping in and taking credit for a “win” in hopes of gaining rural votes prior to November.

That’s not to say this regulation won’t be pursued post election, say in 2013.  In the meantime, the Obama Administration wants to develop education programs that promote farm safety.  This is another example of government redundancy!  Farm safety programs already exist.  Just think of the positive impact that could be made if everyone – including the U.S. government – spent time supporting/promoting educational programs that are already in place through 4-H, the FFA and Farm Safety For Just Kids.

Let’s keep our eyes on the ball, so we’re not struck by cumbersome programs that could be just as restrictive as rules.  This game’s not over!  Perhaps this is just the 7th inning stretch…