Archive for Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kansas officials oppose proposed federal restrictions on children working on farms

December 1, 2011


Gov. Sam Brownback, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and other Kansas officials said Thursday proposed federal restrictions aimed at increasing safety for children working on farms go too far.

“The learning opportunities provided by working in agriculture are second to none,” Brownback said. “Spending time on a farm or ranch teaches young people the value of hard work and instills in them a respect for land and animals,” he said.

Schmidt said, “This proposed regulation is a one-size-fits-all bureaucratic assault on rural culture. If this had been the law when I was a kid working on my grandpa’s farm, a formative part of my childhood would have been illegal.”

In this 2009 file photo, second-year Future Farmers of America member Stuart Wakeman is pictured with a 1964 Farmall 806 Diesel that he restored. On Thursday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt submitted a letter urging the U.S. Department of Labor to revise its newly proposed rule pertaining to child labor laws on Kansas family farms.

In this 2009 file photo, second-year Future Farmers of America member Stuart Wakeman is pictured with a 1964 Farmall 806 Diesel that he restored. On Thursday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt submitted a letter urging the U.S. Department of Labor to revise its newly proposed rule pertaining to child labor laws on Kansas family farms.

The officials were criticizing a move by the U.S. Department of Labor to update child labor regulations in agriculture.

“Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. The fatality rate for young agriculture workers is four times the rate of young people working in non-agricultural workplaces, according to the Labor Department.

The proposal would prohibit farm workers under age 16 from operating almost all power-driven equipment unless the child was under the supervision of a parent or guardian. It also would restrict youngsters from working around certain animals and handling pesticides.

Some agriculture officials have said the restrictions are too much and would hurt family farmers who depend on youngsters to work on the farm.

In addition to Brownback and Schmidt, the federal proposal was criticized by Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman, Secretary of Commerce Pat George and Secretary of Labor Karin Brownlee.


Jeff Kilgore 6 years, 3 months ago

Although I oppose Brownback in the main, without knowing the specifics of the proposed restrictions might indeed go too far, and so I'm inclined to agree. More details, please.

DillonBarnes 6 years, 3 months ago

How would they even enforce this? A 15 year old picked up a jug of round-up, sound the alarm!

Yes, safety is important, but I have to agree with Brownie on this one (yikes), it sure sounds like a one-size-fits-all bureaucratic mess.

stahlin 6 years, 3 months ago

I hate it when they force me to agree with brownback

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 3 months ago

I started more or less driving a pickup at age 4. Although about all I actually did was steer, I did just fine.

At age 7 I mastered the art of driving and operating the manual transmission of the pickup. I was rather amazed that my father started to read the newspaper while I was driving on a dirt road in the country, and said something about it. He replied, "I've got a good driver."

A few years later, when I was 12, I started driving the tractor and I thought I was doing just fine. But later, my father told me to let the clutch out really slow, because you're not supposed to pop wheelies with the tractor.

I think that while it might be more dangerous for young people to be driving and operating heavy machinery while they are younger, it instills in them a sense of the inherent dangers in doing so. It also makes so many things second nature that I'm quite sure that you're simply a better driver, because you started at age 4 to 12, and it then became so automatic.

For instance, I never even think about using the steering wheel, turn signals, clutch, gearshift, or brakes when I'm driving, I pay no attention to them at all. It's magic, they work by themselves.

Because, I'm so used to using them that the only things I ever notice are the road, the other vehicles, and the potential hazards that might arise in only one split second.

So, I wonder what the statistics are over a lifetime, instead of only looking at the unfortunate accidents that do occasionally occur with younger people.

One could also make a very good argument that no one under the age of 35 should ever be allowed to drive a vehicle at all, because statistically, people over 35 have fewer accidents than people under 35.

It's the complete picture that's important, not just one small part of it, which appears to me is being addressed in the proposed new federal restrictions.

kochmoney 6 years, 3 months ago

I'd ask my childhood buddy about this, but he was one of the "unfortunate statistics" you speak of.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 3 months ago

But for each farm accident fatality that I knew, I knew 10 or 15 car accident victims. Or, maybe even more than that.

chootspa 6 years, 3 months ago

More people drive or ride in cars more often than they drive or ride in tractors, so of course you'd know more.

Agriculture has a death rate of 29 per 100,000 workers, which is higher than the death rate in mining.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 3 months ago

I need to qualify everything I just said.

I believe it is absolutely wrong to employ anyone other than your own child as a regular employee that is under 16, or preferably older, for any farm work at all. It was simply never done where I came from, every family worked their own farm.

With only one exception, my father never employed anyone under 18 for sure, and usually much older than that. And all that young kid ever did was drive a tractor a little. I believe he was 17 at the time.

question4u 6 years, 3 months ago

The U.S. Secretary of Labor's statement does say "employed." Are kids who work on their grandparents' farm considered "employees"? Aren't there many children of migrant workers who are employed on farms? They may well need protection. Without knowing exactly what the proposed federal restrictions are, it's impossible to judge what the effects would be.

Bob_Keeshan 6 years, 3 months ago

Winner winner chicken dinner.

Scare tactics, pure and simple.

deec 6 years, 3 months ago

I read elsewhere the changes do not apply if you are working on your own family's farm.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 3 months ago

That's what I thought was the case all along! It always used to be that you could have your own child help on the family farm, but I thought you were never to employ anyone else until they are at least 16. We sure never did, anyway.

Bob_Keeshan 6 years, 3 months ago

According to the Kansas Attorney General, you are wrong.

"If this had been the law when I was a kid working on my grandpa’s farm, a formative part of my childhood would have been illegal."

This is the official legal opinion of the Kansas Attorney General.

repaste 6 years, 3 months ago

I believe our attorneys general is misleading, the law would exempt relatives.

kochmoney 6 years, 3 months ago

Bingo. This is a shot at corporate farms. Brownback is using the small farm as cover for protecting the interests of his rich corporate buddies.

deec 6 years, 3 months ago

In the Lincoln paper its the corporate farms that use kids to detassel corn and the detasseling companies who are all het up about this.

chootspa 6 years, 3 months ago

And some nine years old died in a detassling accident just this summer, if I recall correctly.

FlintHawk 6 years, 3 months ago

Totally agree. We need a factual summary of the proposed regs so we can adequately judge Brownboy's comments. As shown in most of the comments, Americans need to practice critical thinking. How could the federal government regulate a small family operation in which the kids help, along with dogs and neighbors? Obvious answer: It can't. Any Kansan who actually grew up on a farm knows how it works.

But Agribusiness and Corporate Farms are a different story. Their employment practices would be subject to US oversight.

C'mom people. Think! And keep on disagreeing with our governor.

gccs14r 6 years, 3 months ago

I had a great-uncle teach me how to drive his IH tractor with tricycle gear and a belly mower (including where to jam the stick to keep the blades engaged), then sent me off to mow the levee with it. He told me that if it started to tip over, to just jump off the back. I was 12 and had no business using an antique tractor with no safety cage or supervision (or ear or eye protection, or gloves, or steel-toed boots...) to perform hazardous work. 'course I thought it was great fun, but then I was 12 and didn't have the necessary judgement to know when to say no. Sometimes the adults don't have the necessary judgement, either, which is how we end up with laws on the books.

kochmoney 6 years, 3 months ago

Tractors are the leading cause of death in farm accidents. Therefore, he's just a big meanie for pointing out that they're dangerous, and it takes away all credibility that he happens to also have an anecdote that illustrates it.

gccs14r 6 years, 3 months ago

We don't need kids lopping off fingers or poisoning themselves in any environment. What's mentioned above is not permitting kids to perform these hazardous tasks without adult supervision, so they can still be taught how things work, they just can't be sent off forty miles from nowhere by themselves to go do it.

tolawdjk 6 years, 3 months ago

Got to say I'm divided on this. In my youth I put in my time on various farms, both in my family and my friends family. I can remember, what seems like insanty now, football practice in the morning, going out and cutting the feed out of the milo, then football practice in the afternoon. Its honest work, it teaches on so many levels, and it builds character and respect.

However, the "family farm" really is an endangered species anymore. Sure "Uncle Bob" may still operate it. But its grown 4 times bigger and its really just a feeder for the hog plant down the road, or shovels soybeans to the oil plant, or corn to the ethanol plant. Plus, on a bad year, they are getting 5 figure handouts from the federal govt, in a good one, 6 or 7.

I think that is the part that really rubs me the wrong way. BP or Exxon or Koch or Hess or anyone else has a business in the state might get a federal handout/subsidy and they also have to follow Dept. of Labor requirements. Agriculture, however, has traditionally be a "hand out and Hands Off!" During the time when it was one man (or woman) and his family hanging on the knife's edge month after month, it was understandable.

But it's not that way anymore.

Agribusiness is business and as such has some strings attached to it. Reasonble people may argue to the extent of those strings, but I think some need to be there. At least as long as they expect me to pay them my tax dollars when the corn crop fails.

kernal 6 years, 3 months ago

Too late for public comment, according to the KC version of this story, and the DOL is already moving forward with their proposals. Well, ain't that just hunkey dorey for the small farmers.

Can't help but wonder if corporate farming's lobby is one of the entities behind this restructuring.

Evan Ridenour 6 years, 3 months ago

If a minor isn't allowed to operate heavy machinery in any other industry what makes it okay for them to operate it in this setting? I am having trouble seeing the distinction. Law seems like a good idea to me, unless one is arguing that it is okay for minors to operate heavy machinery in general.

kochmoney 6 years, 3 months ago

It's not like the injury rate for kids 15 and under is statistically much higher than it is for other farm works.... Oh wait, it is.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 3 months ago

Way to use some common sense Brownback! LESS Government is what the country needs!

bad_dog 6 years, 3 months ago

Can we start the push for less government by ridding ourselves of Gov. B?

i can get behind that definition!

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 3 months ago

Why do we object to children in India tying knots for carpets but we are ok with kids in this country handling commercial grade pesticides? Are you kidding me? The great leap backwards and their cultural revolution continues...

deec 6 years, 3 months ago

Child slave labor. It happens all over the world, so we can have ten dollar tennis shoes and handknotted carpets.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 3 months ago

I don't object to kids working! It teaches them HOW to work!

chootspa 6 years, 3 months ago

It's not like you could start out with folding laundry and raking leaves.

kochmoney 6 years, 3 months ago

I'm teaching my kids to manage hedge funds.

chootspa 6 years, 3 months ago

Yes. It's not at all like thousands and thousands of migrant workers sacrifice their childhood and schooling to work in the fields all day and return to conditions that we as Americans wouldn't be willing to live in ourselves. Oh wait...

bad_dog 6 years, 3 months ago

Not only that, encourage your Senators to pass the pending legislation prohibiting insider trading and self-dealing by Congressional members. As it now stands, they can and do act in ways that would result in you or I being imprisoned. Both Pelosi and Boehner, for example, have been implicated in this activity, so it's not merely a partisan complaint.


kochmoney 6 years, 3 months ago

No point. Most of them are already millionaires.

Centerville 6 years, 3 months ago

Here's how this will play out: the DOL will start saying that the states are just over-reacting and that the DOL would NEVER propose something as crazy as not allowing minors to work on a farm. Just like when the EPA floated their dust regulations, than had that poor guy in Kansas City have to run all around saying that they had never done it.

kochmoney 6 years, 3 months ago

My understanding is that dust regulations were about mining dust, not farming dust, and the whole thing is a manufacrtoversy to deregulate the mining industry.

Bob_Keeshan 6 years, 3 months ago

Read the comments of Brownback and Schmidt -- they are targeted at family members working on family farms.

Which has no connection to this discussion.

But the state's Governor and the state's top attorney want farmers across Kansas to think a new law will prohibit their children from doing chores.

And both of these buffoons claim to have a law degree. Disgraceful.

kochmoney 6 years, 3 months ago

They're deliberately introducing those red herrings. They know quite well what is and isn't covered, but if their base stops thinking they're victims of Washington policies, they might realize they're victims of Brownback's crony capitalism.

kochmoney 6 years, 3 months ago

"The Labor Department proposed a legal exemption for farm families, allowing children to work on the farms owned by their parents." Other spokespeople have clarified that they'd also interpret farms organized as LLCs or partially owned by the family as being included in that exemption.

Yes, it would impact family farms who hired outside help and/or extended family, but there are 400,000 children working on farms that are not owned by a relative, and children are four times more likely to die working on a farm than they are on a non-farm job.

Centerville 6 years, 3 months ago

Ha. Bob Keeshan is already proving my prediction. Bob, I hope you aren't carrying DOL's water for free.

cjeter 6 years, 3 months ago

Stay out of our homes and families and off of our farms....

deec 6 years, 3 months ago

Don't hire kids you ain't kin to, and these regs will stay "off your farms." And IF you get them, be sure to repay those farm subsidies, since you want the gubmint out of your farming business.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 3 months ago

Stuff that happens in fly-over country is a mystery to the feds in DC.

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