As my mother used to say…
…Well, actually, she still uses this phrase when I need a little attitude adjustment – and I’m 27.
Anyway, as my mother says, “A little hard work never hurt anyone.”
And that is just lesson no. 1 of 2,487,925 I learned growing up on a farm.
Consequently, if you’re interested, lessons no. 2 and no. 3 are don’t put up hay in shorts – even though it’s probably 110 degrees – and never, EVER wear flip flops when you’re leading a 1,000+ pound animal. But, I digress.
Anyway, I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up on a farm and work in the agriculture industry.
In fact, since I was little kid, I spent my time on my family’s farm, working with the registered Paint horses we raise. I cared for my 4-H and FFA projects, training my own horses and showing them to make money. And, if I wanted a mare to raise a baby of out of and expand my herd, I bought her with my own money.
In other words, growing up and working on a farm can prepare kids for life by teaching them some of life’s most important lessons:
- Hard work definitely pays off
- Persistence and patience go hand-in-hand – and are vital to success
- Effectively managing your money and budget are the key to your future
- Treating your animals with care, dignity and respect makes for a happy and beneficial partnership
I also grew up working with dairy cattle. The only thing is, those dairy cattle were at my grandpa’s farm.
And, here’s the kicker: If the current proposed revisions to the Agricultural Child Labor Provisions are to succeed (and I were still considered a youth), I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with and show the dairy cattle that sustained my mother’s family for more than 60 years just because they were on my grandpa’s farm.
That’s right. Under the new rules proposed by the Obama administration, the Department of Labor would end most youth labor exemptions that currently exist in farming by denying work to anyone under the age of 16, unless the farm is owned by their parents and one of the parents is directly overseeing their work.
What’s more, most 14- and 15-year-old workers would be prevented from operating any tractor, all-terrain vehicle, milking machine (see, I told you – problem), or lawn mower.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating for 5-year-olds operating power take-off units. In fact, there are current exemptions that allow children under the age of 16 to operate equipment only if they have completed a 24-hour safety course, typically provided by organizations like the state Farm Bureaus or through Cooperative Extension offices.
However, current rule changes would create and require a 90-hour course that could only be taught through government-run secondary and/or vocational schools. Talk about increasing cost to the taxpayer. Not to mention, any untrained youth would not be allowed in the proximity of any motorized or electronic device during the course of their work. Not allowed in the proximity. There goes baling hay in the summer.
And, as I mentioned earlier, it would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from any and all acts of animal husbandry (if the milking machines clause didn’t get me first, this one would).
That makes it pretty hard for some kids to work with their 4-H and FFA projects – especially if they don’t live on the farm where their projects reside.
As you might expect, the Illinois Farm Bureau opposes the proposed revisions to the Agricultural Child Labor Provisions. Of course, as an organization, we support existing provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act that set standards for youth employment on the farm – because restrictions on certain hazardous jobs are essential to the safety of our children.
And, we support safe working conditions for children and adults. After all, our kids are working on the farm, too.
But, the revisions to the child labor laws — effectively shutting kids out of farm life completely — isn’t the answer when it comes to keeping kids safe on the farm.
Don’t believe me? Then, we’ll give you a chance to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Next week, we’ll have a guest post from Illinois Association FFA State Officer Jim Tobin. Trust me, he can tell you just what kind of damage this proposed rule change will create.