Most farmers, ranchers and farm/ranch groups would like to take the new youth farm labor proposals by the Department of Labor into their fields and spread it like manure.
This is a case of government overreach and getting into the business of parenting. No one is more concerned and conscious of safety than your average farm family.
We trust their common sense more than any governmental agency. Let parents determine their childrens' limitations on the farm and in the industry, not the government.
The recent Department of Labor proposals include age limitations for those teenagers who:
· Operate power-driven machines (such as a tractor) without a parent or guardian supervising.
· Herd and handle certain types of livestock in certain situations.
· Work at heights above six feet from the floor, including on a ladder.
· Work with manure pits, storage bins and pesticides.
· Are employed in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm-product raw materials. Prohibited places of employment would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.
Children who work on their parents' farms are exempt from child labor laws, and they would remain exempt under the proposed regulation changes, according to the Department of Labor. But many opposers say the labor department has very narrowly defined the parent farm exemption and that in many cases, it will tear apart family farms who rely on their children to help run the operation. Others say it is the start of a slippery slope, with more stringent regulations to follow.
We understand that farming is one of the nation's most dangerous businesses and that the industry has changed drastically in the more than 40 years since the Department of Labor updated child labor regulations for farms. Nationwide, a child is killed in an agricultural work site every 3 days, and 41 young people suffer serious farm injuries each day, according to data through 2009 from the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety.
We also understand that children help form the backbone of many family farms. Plus, agriculture contributes 40 percent of all jobs and a fourth of all citizens are younger than 18 in South Dakota. So the impact of these new regulations would be significant.
It is all about striking a balance.
But that balance needs to be struck by parents, not the government.