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Farm And Ranch Kids Get Opportunity To Work

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Passage of youth labor legislation is a positive move for agriculture.

Growing up, my younger sisters and I were Dad’s chore help. He taught us how to feed cattle, drive the four-wheeler and tractor, stack bales, pitch manure, fix fence, chop weeds and treat sick calves. While kids in town may have had to do chores like wash dishes and make their bed, we were busy working outside, learning from a young age that the cattle relied on us to care for them.

Although I didn’t always appreciate having to work on the ranch, looking back now, I know the chores helped shape me into who I am today. More than that, without us to help with the chores, Dad would have had to hire employees to help.

If the Obama administration’s Department of Labor (DOL) had its way, a lot of kids wouldn’t be allowed to help on the farm or ranch. When DOL proposed a rule earlier this year regarding youth in agriculture, farm and ranch families were perplexed. Young people play a huge role in family-owned agriculture businesses, and the proposed rule, which was later withdrawn, would have been a detriment to those farm families who rely on kids to help with everything from cattle chores, to throwing square bales, to driving machinery.

But, just because DOL pulled back the proposed rule doesn’t mean agriculture felt confident about future regulations that might impose on family traditions. So, Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) introduced the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act (H.R. 4157), which was passed a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, July 24.

H.R. 4157 will prevent the DOL from finalizing or enforcing its previously proposed rule, ensuring that this rule will not be reintroduced. Similar legislation (S. 2221) has now been introduced in the Senate by Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Jerry Moran (R-KS).

Here’s hoping S. 2221 is passed quickly, so that America’s farm and ranch families can feel secure that their children can be a part of the tradition of food production.

What do you think of the legislation? If passed by the U.S. Senate, will this measure serve the purpose of protecting farm and ranch families?

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

D. A. (not verified)
on Jul 26, 2012

We need more leadership in this country from those who have grown up on the farm. From the days of the shepherd king, King David, farm kids have made the best leaders, because they understand the great care and responsibility required to lead. Our earliest leaders, Washington, Adams and Jefferson, were farmers who truly understood the value of good land, well-tended. The care of farm animals early on in life provides experience that the children of farmers and ranchers can translate into becoming responsible caretakers and citizens as adults. Unfortunately, farmers now make up less than one percent of our population, down from around forty percent in the first half of the twentieth century. Those of us who care for animals make up only a small cut of that one percent. The best most of us can manage to do is to continue to try to provide enough food to fuel the bodies and minds of the rest of the population, even as the general perception of what our small population of farmers do and should do becomes less and less realistic. In 1935, the number of farms in the U.S. peaked at 6.8 million as the population edged over 127 million citizens. Today we number over 314 million people in the U.S. As of 1997, there were about 2.1 million farms in America, but a mere 46,000 farms produced over 50 percent of the food in this country. The number of profitable small farms continues to decrease. What will happen as the widespread drought of 2012 continues to ravage the nation's pastures and crop fields? We are guessing a famine unprecedented in this country, followed by a further reduction in the number of family farmers. It really is a shame that no smart multi-billionaire farm kids rich enough to run are in the race for president of the United States right now. The only one I know of who might be able to raise enough cash to spend to win is Howard Graham Buffet, and he has other viable and urgent concerns. What we have to choose from this election year are conservatives who don't know how to conserve anything, and liberals who want increasingly stringent and specific government regulations. No wise shepherd-kings are available these days to lead us.

John R. Dykers, Jr. (not verified)
on Jul 26, 2012

Thank God, a piece of legislation designed to restrain a bureaucracy run wild.

Terry Church (not verified)
on Jul 28, 2012

Kids working on the farm or ranch will teach them alot that they wouldn't learn in a classroom. They learn a good work ethic, responsibilities, care of the land and the livestock, and wo much more. Growing up on the farm or ranch is an education within itself.

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A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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