Labor Dept. needs some country living

People love to talk about ‘change.’  It’s understandable, because many things have changed over the years.  Probably one of the most easily recognizable is technology.  I now e-mail, tweet, post to facebook, watch video, check markets, navigate through cities, find restaurants and gas stations and a lot more on my ‘smartphone.’

Sometimes, I even make a phone call.

Girl and her calf on a Jackson, County Kansas farm

Modern Agriculture has changed dramatically too.  The amazing advances in technology make it the most efficient, productive, and environmentally sound food, fiber and fuel producing system in the world.

But a couple of things about agriculture have never changed, and the Department of Labor doesn’t understand it.  That’s why we now have what could be the most misguided proposal for the overregulation of agriculture we’ve ever seen.  You see, the Dept. of Labor wants to basically keep kids from helping, or working on the farm.  In the real world, that’s absurd on so many levels.  But Washington D.C. bureaucracy is not the real world.

Apparently, the Dept. of Labor doesn’t think youth under 16 can be around cattle, operate a mower or tractor, milk a cow, or cut weeds.  That’s just a few of the restrictions the new proposal would implement. In other words, many things I did growing up on our family farm, and all others before and after me, would be illegal.

I was starting to drive a tractor, ‘driving’ a pickup in a pasture to fix fence, riding horses to move cattle, and feeding cattle at around 9 yrs. old.  Could some of this be dangerous?  I suppose so.  But does the Dept. of Labor actually believe that my parents wanted me injured or killed?  Just as farmer Chris Chinn from Missouri told Congress in her real-life testimony on the issue, She, and I, were hurt more often and much worse at school than we ever were on the farm.  The farm is the perfect place and opportunity for parents to teach common-sense safety rules and precautions, the responsibility of handling expensive equipment, and the values of work.  That work ethic, and other skills and values I learned on the farm, has served me very well as an adult in my employment, relationships, finances and more.  We don’t need to keep kids from working on the farm, we need to get more out there.  I remember my city friends at school who came to see me on the farm, and some worked during the summer.  Their parents knew it was good for them to learn the responsibilities of taking care of animals, the value of equipment, the importance of a work ethic.  These kids were better adults because of their time on the farm.

The Dept. of Labor needs some country living.  Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran has invited Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to Kansas to see personally how these proposed rules can threaten the family farm and its historical value.  I hope she comes.  She needs to see the value system, the work ethic, and the skills learned on the farm.  I thank Sen. Moran and others in the Kansas delegation who are keeping up the fight to do away with this misguided overregulation.  If you grew up or work on a farm, you can help, too.  Just go to www.keepfamiliesfarming.com and tell your story.  Much of Washington D.C. doesn’t ‘get’ the value of rural living.  We must teach them through our action, or lose a heritage that will hurt everyone.

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