Production agriculture has always been a dangerous part of our industry. However, it is an absolutely crucial piece of modern agriculture as well. Although I understand the concerns about child safety, I would like to remind those unfamiliar with production agriculture about the importance of hands on experience for our youth.
I personally did not grow up on a farm, but being involved with the FFA and growing up in an agriculturally-driven area, I soon learned how production agriculture works and why it is so important not only for my community but for people all over the world.
With the proposed child labor laws, the way of life in rural America will be changed forever. Agricultural practices have been handed down from generation to generation and the youth of America often times develop a life-long passion for agriculture by working on a local farming operation.
A good friend of mine grew up in town with little exposure to the world of farming. Early on in his high school career, he was hired by a local farmer to do some odd jobs, but within a few months he was taking on more and more responsibilities and by the time he graduated he was working full-time, managing the farm and has hopes to own and operate his own beef cattle operation in the years to come.
This is a perfect example of how hands-on learning and experience can not only be beneficial to teaching youth about agriculture but is absolutely essential. Safety has and always will be a concern on the farm, but talk to anyone who has spent significant time with machinery, livestock, etc., and they will tell you that safety is always the number one concern and that the best way to stay safe is to learn smart practices from those with experience. Taking away the opportunity for youth to work on a farm not only robs them of their opportunity to learn how production agriculture operates in a safe and efficient manner, but it always has potential to deliver a fatal blow to an ever-growing population that will rely on an enthusiastic, experienced, and educated group of agriculturists to feed them in the generations to come.
Jim Tobin, Illinois Association FFA Vice President