Sunday, December 11, 2011

The War on Agriculture

Growing up on a small farm introduced me to several hazardous situations and my puny 98 lbs wasn't much against a 1200 lb steer. When I drove the Allis Chalmers C at age 5 while my dad threw hay to the calves, I had to jump off the seat to push in the clutch and brake pedals. Probably not the safest task given to me, but I did okay and didn't drive through a gate or ran over anyone. But new proposed rules regarding child labor in agriculture may change the landscape of farming. (Comments ended Dec 1st) While these rules would not apply to non-paid labor on the family farm (at least not now) they do apply if a kid hires out to work for a neighbor or family member. I baled hay for neighbors in junior high and I still have all my limbs intact.
The Labor Department can only regulate employer-employee relationships, so the proposed rules shouldn't affect 4-H, FFA or other educational programs, said Michael Hancock, assistant administrator for policy at the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division. And, they may not keep children from helping on their grandparents' or uncle's farms if they aren't paid. (emphasis mine) Proposed child labor laws would limit hazardous work by minors on farms
"Shouldn't" and "May not" are clues to what is really intended. Busybodies like Barbara Marlenga, a described "research scientist" but looks like her only function is to publish studies like: "North American guidelines for children's agricultural tasks: five-year assessment and priorities for the future." is quoted: "Youths who work in other industries — the child labor laws are much stricter," Marlenga said. "Why would we have unequal protection?" Sounds like someone my dad would have run off the homestead. Point is given that farming is a dangerous enterprise and I've seen the results of carelessness, but no one is advocating sweat shop like labor for kids. Even my dad wasn't that bad. But proposing safety rails if a 16 year-old is 6 feet in the air? That's maybe four bales of hay and don't even think about working in the loft. According to the article, child agriculture accidents fell by more than half from 1998 to 2009, so what's the problem? After looking at a letter signed by "more than 25 public-health and workplace safety experts" sent to a governmental busybody who oversees new rules in the Department of Labor, one name stood out: Michael J. Wright of the United Steel Workers. If fewer young people are employed in agriculture, the end result would be that adults would have to be hired. You can't organize children into labor unions. Little Johnny has no interest in Big Labor, he's trying to earn money for a car. The rest of the letter signers look to be academics who I would bet have never set foot on a farm operation, let alone operate any machinery. These guys make it sound as though children fresh out of diapers are running a sickle mower for 10 hours a day. This link makes it sound like farmers are involved in nefarious human trafficking. Human Rights Watch interviewed 58 under-18 workers (out of a few hundred thousand possible) and came up the the cute-sounding "Fields of Peril" report. At a 102 pages I'm still sifting through it, but with subject titles of: "Work with Dangerous Machinery, Equipment, and Tools", "Pressure to Work Fast, Sick, and Injured", and "Extreme Temperatures: Heat and Cold" makes me think that these namby girls don't know what hard work is. Through my short reading, many of the issues they cite are regarding large ag operations and migrant workers, those that are already regulated. The desire to throw down more regulations when the current regulations are violated, seems asinine to me. Those of us who know would say that farming is a 24-7 life. If you have a cow suffering through a breach-birth, your head cold doesn't mean squat when you risk losing a source of your income. At 20 below you better make sure those animals are watered and fed before you are. At least it was when I grew up. And like many others, I suffered through the heat in summer and freezing my toes and ears in winter. And I hated that at the time. But I'm glad I did it because it taught me what work is and gave me a set of skills that has benefited me and my family ever since. The problem I see is that these adults wish for a utopian life for youth and don't understand the benefits that physical labor brings to a child's life. No one is advocating slave-labor with children in chains in the hot sun, but I never knew anyone who died cutting corn from a soybean field in July. So after wading through this post, here is the interpretation: under-18 agriculture laborers are slaves and farm operations are trafficking in slave labor, big operations are violating current regulations and therefore more regulations that apply to all are needed and finally, bed-wetting academics and labor advocates know more about the welfare of youth than the parents. If these people had their way when I was a kid, my life would have been filled with gumdrops and sunshine while riding unicorns across bubble wrap fields where no one ever suffered a skinned knee or bruised elbow. Right. Just because these idiots are wimps they mean to scrape a whole segment of youth out of a lifestyle and out of employment.


Jim said...

Never mind that the poor urchins might have to breathe dust.

Never mind the potential for immolation when the teen-age lad adjusts the carb on the Interntional Harvester H.

And a guard rail around the four-high stack of bales would make it harder to jump off into the pile of loose hay, laughing like Hell, just for the sheer fun of it.

Post of the week in my book, Stranded.

Midwest Chick said...

I detassled from the time I was 11 to age 22. Did me a world of good--taught me responsibility, self-reliance, and the necessity of being prepared. It was my spending money for the year.

The government is only going to stop when we make them--they are trying to take over parental roles and turn all kids into useless drones.

strandediniowa said...

Thank you, Jim. OSHA would have shut down every farm I worked on as a kid if these regs were in place then.

MidwestChick, I never detassled as that was usually the time we baled hay for us, relatives and neighbors. I agree with you about teaching you something. Now, most of the detassling is done my "migrant" laborers and not young kids (although my son worked on a crew before his shoulder injury).

I didn't hear about these regulations until after the deadline and I'm guessing they will be put in place. You're right that it won't stop until we make them.

Bawb said...

(Long string of profanities) Deep breath.

Some of my best memories of childhood are about baling hay, drinking water out of the hose, kicking back with the neighbor kids when done, and having a huge supper at the end of the day. Or bringing in corn and filling the bin long after dark under a harvest moon. Or discing or cultivating; I loved to watch the kestrels and red-tails following above me waiting for the field mice I stirred up.

None of the idiotic bureaucrats and do-gooders involved here ever get out of a climate-controlled office and have never done an honest day's work in their lives. Rather like the politicians who fund them and let them run rampant.

Alas, I think we have reached the point where "We the People" can't stop this kind of government insanity.

The Republic ain't quite dead, but it's on life support.

Jinglebob said...

Well said! They have never had to work hard in their life and are afraid someone else might and get ahead of them! Twits. Idiots and twits, are what are surrounding us!

Bawb said...

Another thought occurred to me. Why is Human Rights Watch so concerned about Johnny running a tractor when we have nations all over the world now under sharia law, cutting off appendages, whipping, stoning, and killing people while some other nations still actively engage in slavery, in the most literal sense of the word? Don't they have bigger fish to fry the baling hay and picking up rocks?