American Elephants

Farm Kids v. Labor Department. Kids Won. by The Elephant's Child

An article appeared in the Daily Caller about the Obama administration proposal to prevent farm children from doing anything that might be dangerous, like doing farm chores. That had been revised down to not doing chores anywhere but on their parent’s property. City newspapers didn’t notice, but the proposal, in all its variations, struck a sour note in farm country. The general response could be described as — “Are they nuts?”

The best thing for the children of America would be to spend some time on American farms and doing farm chores. When I was growing up rural, we often got a high school age kid from a disgruntled city parent, with the request to place him on a ranch to work for the summer, so he could learn some life lessons.

Child labor laws were passed in the U.S. starting in 1916, but were not firmly established until the Great Depression. The Fair Labor Standards Act placed limits on many forms of child labor. According to Wikipedia, Human Rights Watch in a 2009 petition claimed:

Hundreds of thousands of children are employed as farmworkers in the United States, often working 10 or more hours a day. They are often exposed to dangerous pesticides, experience high rates of injury, and suffer fatalities at five times the rate of other working youth. Their long hours contribute to alarming drop-out rates. Government statistics show that barely half ever finish high school. According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is the second most dangerous occupation in the United States. However, current US child labor laws allow child farmworkers to work longer hours, at younger ages, and under more hazardous conditions than other working youths. While children in other sectors must be 12 to be employed and cannot work more than 3 hours on a school day, in agriculture, children can work at age 12 for unlimited hours before and after school.”

This may be true for migrant farm workers, but applied to all rural children on all American farms — it is ridiculous. It may have helped some children who were forced to work, but was tough on thousands of children who no longer got to pick berries or apples.

But the Daily Caller piece was this morning. This afternoon, the Labor Department withdrew their “proposed rule dealing with children who work in agricultural vocations. The withdrawal statement was interesting as well. AllahPundit at Hot Air contributed an alternate headline:

Obama administration decides against picking pointless, hugely politically perilous fight in election year.

The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations. The Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations.

As a result, the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations.

The decision to withdraw this rule,  including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption,’ was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.

Instead, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with rural stakeholders such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H  to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices.

The press release apparently said: “To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.” (translation,Hot Air added: please forget this).

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