Feds to Outlaw Farm Chores for Kids


Step away from that calf little boy, and nobody gets hurt.

The U.S. Department of Labor is here to help farmers and their families with new regulations on what their kids can do to help around the farm. The proposed rules have provoked in me a little stroll down nostalgia lane.

I grew up on a dairy farm in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia. Helping out the folks was not optional—our house was heated by wood stoves, so a good bit of my summers was spent wielding an axe and stacking cords of wood. Milking cows happened twice a day every day, holidays and weekends not excepted. I carried the milk cans to the big refrigerator for storage until they were picked up by the dairy company trucks. I was sometimes tasked to cut down timber using a chain saw.

I rarely got to drive the tractors since as a teenager with a strong back I was expected to do labor such as hoisting bales of hay onto trailers in the field and off the trailers into the barn's hayloft. I once got chased by a very annoyed sow that was building a nest in which to farrow. I planted, cut, and hung burley tobacco in barns to dry and then graded it for sale. I applied various pesticides and cleaned the equipment afterwards. Over their strenuous objections, I sheared sheep. I mention all these farm chores because while many them were apparently outlawed in 1970, most of the rest will be under the new regulations.

According to the Labor Department press release

The proposal would strengthen current child labor regulations prohibiting agricultural work with animals and in pesticide handling, timber operations, manure pits and storage bins. It would prohibit farmworkers under age 16 from participating in the cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco. And it would prohibit youth in both agricultural and nonagricultural employment from using electronic, including communication, devices while operating power-driven equipment.

The department also is proposing to create a new nonagricultural hazardous occupations order that would prevent children under 18 from being employed in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials. Prohibited places of employment would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.

Additionally, the proposal would prohibit farmworkers under 16 from operating almost all power-driven equipment. A similar prohibition has existed as part of the nonagricultural child labor provisions for more than 50 years. A limited exemption would permit some student learners to operate certain farm implements and tractors, when equipped with proper rollover protection structures and seat belts, under specified conditions.

The new rules do explicitly exempt their application to kids working on their parents' farms. But is that so? Farm organizations like the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau object

Farm Bureau notes that DOL claims its "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" will not change the "parental exemption" in the current law, but Farm Bureau says DOL's new language would not include an exemption for farms that are incorporated or formed as family partnerships.

"Many farm families in Pennsylvania and across the United States have incorporated or formed a family partnership for estate planning, insurance and other reasons.  They are still family farms with moms and dads making the decisions over what work duties their children have been trained to do and are capable of doing in a safe manner.  Farmers understand that there are potential dangers on the farm and they abide by existing farm labor laws," added [PFB President Carl T.] Shaffer.

Meanwhile, the proposed regulations could prohibit or seriously limit 4-H and FFA youth enrolled in vocational training in agriculture, or Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), from working on farms. Other non-farm youth, such as neighbors, nephews and nieces, would also not be allowed to perform many typical farm tasks under the DOL notice.

Make no mistake, farm work is hard and sometimes dangerous work. But, for comparison, consider that the accidental death rate for the U.S. is 38 per 100,000. According to the most recent data the accidental death rate for folks younger than age 20 has fallen from 15.5 to 11 per 100,000 between 2000 and 2009, largely due to a steep decline in motor vehicle deaths. This figure includes autos, drugs, and work for all Americans under age 20. As it happens, about 113 under-20s die of farm accidents every year, so, counting all 1,030,000 children and teens who live on farms, that would yield an annual death rate of 11 per 100,000. 

Considering that there is no apparent agri-death crisis among farm kids, it's hard not to suspect that these regulations have been concocted by urbanite bureaucrats from other motives. Farm labor unionization perhaps? 

Hat tip Daily Caller

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  1. The proposal would strengthen current child labor regulations prohibiting agricultural work with animals and in pesticide handling, timber operations, manure pits and storage bins.

    Child abusers across the country are cheering this news. Now kids will have even fewer options to escape their clutches!

    1. Unionized, government-employed, full-time child abusers will be particularly enthused.

      1. You think this will make more children fly?

        1. That job description encompasses more people than I originally suspected.

    2. That doesn’t leave much, does it?

      1. First they came for the young garment workers, then they came for the young miners . . .

  2. Will the absolutely insane march of regulation after regulation slow down if Obama loses the election? It has to, right? Right?

    1. Unfortunately, nobody else reads this stuff. They watch The View instead.

    2. I would think this is a template for the next administration. Different areas of emphasis, but the formula is a winner.

      Find authorizing statute, publish proposed rule, collect public comment for 60 days, ignore comments, finalize rule.

      1. That’s been the template for at least 50 years.

      2. be fair, they have to ignore any comments that aren’t submitted in triplicate, buried in peat for 3months, dug up….

    3. I would think this is a template for the next administration. Different areas of emphasis, but the formula is a winner.

      Find authorizing statute, publish proposed rule, collect public comment for 60 days, ignore comments, finalize rule.

    4. Realistically, no it will not.

      Republicans like to preach a hard line on small government, but their adherence to it is just a tick below Ted Haggard’s principaled opposition to homosexuality.

      Sure, we’ll get slightly different sets of regulations with a Republican in the White House, but don’t for one second think there will be any fewer of them or any reduction in government power.

  3. apparently the author of this piece is so embarrassed by his farm upbringing that he had to submit it anonymously.

    1. It’s Ron.

    2. If it isn’t Ron Bailey, I’ll eat my hat.

    3. #7: Not true. Just never can tell when server squirrels will strike.

      1. Since half my family is from SW VA. I’ve got to know what holler you came out of. Wise County perhaps?

        1. SN: Fortunately, I didn’t grow up in coal country. The farm is in Washington County a couple of miles from Saltville and close to the north fork of the Holston River.

          1. Arable land is definitely better than coal shafts. My father et al all came from Pound, VA on the Kentucky border. Having been back there a few times, I can safely say it’s best that they left.

            1. SN: My family fled McDowell County West Virginia in 1950. McDowell makes Wise look like a garden spot. The Census reports that life expectancies in McDowell County are among the lowest in the country — an average of 66.3 years for men and 74.1 years for women.

              1. I’ve been through there, McDowell is to Wise as Wise is to Atlanta. Their only hope is cash from gas wells.

      2. When I was a kid on a farm, the squirrels were served up at dinner.

        1. CWT: At our house too.

        2. CWT: Tasted any steak-fried groundhog?

          1. No, my intentional rodent dinning has been limited to squirrels.

            Jimmy Carter suggested in his autobiography that he may have eaten more possum(not a rodent of course) than any living human being.

            1. CWT: I find possum to be a bit too greasy.

      3. When did reason begin tolerating strikes, squirrel or not?

  4. I’ve baled hay and slopped pigs. After 1970. Am I a criminal?

    1. I thought that was established already

    2. No, just sloppy.

    3. Those are euphemisms for depraved sexual acts, right?

      1. Strangely, no. I did some farm chores maybe a week a summer. My dad whole summers. His dad, most of his childhood. Great grandfather, half his life. Beyond that, all of the time (pretty similar for most lines, not just the patrilineal one).

        My kids, not at all. Which I’m thinking I should correct, as I still have cousins with farms in Tennessee.

        1. Tennessee, where the confederate flag prom dress is now illegal!

    4. No but your parents are criminals for using your child labor illegally. Did they make you polish monocles as well?

      1. No, but they laughed at my weakness. My great-grandfather was the kind of guy who would just stomp on a rattlesnake to kill it. We’ve been slowly wussifying ever since.

      2. I hear that the Polish Monocles are the finest crafted monocles around.

  5. I posted that in the Morning Links!


    Where’s my hat tip!?!

    1. Of course the links don’t work anymore.

    2. My link is a page up from where that link puts you. But it’s there.

      Where’s my hat tip?!?

      Or am I just little people 🙁

      1. sarcasmic: Not to any of us at Reason. Since I was negligent about reading comments this morning, I came across the link elsewhere. Apologies.

        1. The proper response is ” Fuck you, that’s why”

        2. I got it off drudge. No big.

          1. You’re always whining and we’re sick of it!

        3. Yeah, he just *happens* to read the thread with your sweet, salty ham tears of disappointment, but ignores the ones where you contribute something. Don’t believe him, Sarc! Ron Bailey feeds off of your tears! He loves them!

          1. Feeding off the tears of the lower classes? What did you expect, he is a libertarian afterall.

  6. How dare those kids learn work ethic!

  7. There are some who claim that they have heard others say that Secretary Hilda L. Solis takes sheep cock up the ass with great enthusiasm.

    1. Let me be clear: I heard that there are some who claim that they have heard others say that Secretary Hilda L. Solis takes sheep cock up the ass with great enthusiasm.

      1. So it wasn’t just me that heard it.

  8. I let my 6 year old help with hay and chores and ride the tractors, none of which have seatbelts, roll cages or airbags. I am scum.

    1. AFter I get arrested maybe Reason can do a post about me?

      1. I think you’re good as long as your land is in your name and not incorporated. That seems to be what the article says anyway.

        1. My kid (5) helps with the neighbor’s farm chores all of the time. Feeding horses, hauling dirt and brush, gardening. Nothing too physically demanding for a 5 year old, but if anyone calls me a child abuser they can go fuck themselves.

          1. Children should be allowed to do useful things as young as possible. Even if they are more trouble than their efforts are worth. Otherwise they grow up to be more trouble than they are worth.

            1. Everything my child helps with can be done more efficiently and much faster without him, but speed isn’t exactly the point. It’s about building a bit of character and raising a child to NOT be afraid of a little hard work.

              I wish to hell that I could have had a farm to help out at when I was a kid instead of being raised in suburbia.

              1. I grew on a farm, but my parents seemingly treated my siblings and me like faucets to be turned on and off at will. We were expected to stay out of the way, if not out of sight, until they wanted us to do something. Then we were expected to be there in an instant, ready and willing to do whatever they wanted done. And to get it right on the first try. Didn’t work out very well for any of us.

          2. but if anyone calls me a child abuser they can go fuck themselves

            what part of “keep your head low, stay under the radar” is giving you trouble?

      2. Why not? Hell, I just called the cops to get the ball rolling.

        1. Thanks, will “Baked Penguin ” be your informant code name?

  9. Here’s a question. Is there any work (that would be legal for an adult to do and has nothing to do with sex) that parents should not be allowed to make or allow their children to do?

    And just in case anyone wants to read things I am not saying into what I have asked, I think that children should be alloed to do all of the work that Ron describes (provided they are physically capable) on a family farm.

    1. That proviso on “physically capable” kicks down the door for standards and inspections by the State.

    2. I would put a few things on the list. Any kind of highly dangerous manual labor, such as operating heavy machinery, or working in a lumber mill or coal mine, or with explosives.
      Anywhere there’s a high risk of losing a limb or being killed should be off limits. Age of consent, etc. Kids don’t know what they are getting into.

      Where you put the line is going to be somewhat arbitrary. But I would let kid do work that maybe might risk a broken limb, but not a severed one. So … milking cows, ok, riding horses, ok, operating the thresher, probably not.

    3. Politics and law enforcement spring to mind.

      Remember when, “You can grow up to be president” wasn’t a threat?

  10. Brazil, where hearts were entertained in June
    We stood beneath an amber moon,
    And softly murmured ‘Some day soon’
    We kissed.

    Soon we’ll need some guerilla heating engineers.

    1. Listen, this old system of yours could be on fire and I couldn’t even turn on the kitchen tap without filling out a 27b/6…

  11. This sucks, because I’ve been wanting to send my kids off to a farm for years now.

    You think you have it so tough at home, doing your “chores?” Say hello to Ma and Pa Farmer. They have some chores for you. See you in a couple weeks.

    1. They put the whore in chore.

  12. This needs to be expanded!

    Mowing lawns is very dangerous.

  13. Forget the family farm. Sounds like the DOL wants to outlaw chores around the house*:

    work with animals

    No more feeding and cleaning up after the family pooch.

    pesticide handling,

    No more spraying the lawn and garden for weeds.

    storage bins.

    No more cleaning up the garage.

    *Yes, I know the post refers to “agricultural work.” Just pointing out that chores are chores. If having your kid do it on your farm is illegal, why wouldn’t having your kid do the same things around the house not illegal?

    1. DOL likes the way you think

  14. I grew up in the 90s/00s doing farm work until I left for college.

    This is a good way to further push agriculture towards large farms and away from family farms. In addition, kids being forced to do farm chores seems to be the only way anyone learns things like hard work, humility, and independence anymore. We wouldn’t want those kids being brainwashed into not relying on the government, would we?

  15. Agricultural products move in interstate commerce, no? So, not only do the Feds have a right to ban child labor, they can make the rest of us subject to one month farm labor per year whether we like it or not, to cut sugar cane, harvest corn, or pick tomatoes. Then the “crisis” about a lack of non-illegal immigrant farm workers could be solved.

    1. dude, it’s exercise, so this ingenious mandate will combat the obesity epipandemic crisis too!

  16. “I grew up on a dairy farm in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia. Helping out the folks was not optional…”

    Ron — as a kid, the family of my best friend also owned a small dairy farm. So from time to time, as kids do, we would have stay-overs at each other’s homes. I’m willing to bet you’ll confirm my experience: that beyond the kids of farmers being expected to do work, it was perfectly understood that their friends were expected to do so, as well. So I’ve done most all of the things you mentioned, too…it was a stroll down memory lane to read your recollection, and I remember it all as good times.

    1. from my experience, this isn’t just farm families. I recall a winter sleepover where I got to help my buddy shovel his 60ft, 45degree driveway.

      1. Sixty feet? Whopping.
        I once visited some friends six hours away on my birthday planning to get drunk and high as fuck, only to end up helping them move when I was hung over the next day. I would like to say it was my worst birthday ever, but I have a really bad history of shitty birthdays.

        1. the length wasn’t the issue so much as the incline.

  17. Well before I turned eighteen, I was doing volunteer work outdoors with heavy equipment and involving manual labor not good for the back. Shit that could cut someone in half, especially with the other dummies who were volunteering. For fucking free (although I often received food and other gratuities). At the same time, I was prevented from getting a paying job in the exact same line of work because I was “underage”. If the feds ever fuck with my beloved organization, there will be hell.

  18. Won’t be an issue in 5-10years when civilization no longer exists.

  19. am I the only one who sees an “immigration angle” to this?
    outlaw child labor on farms and ranches, fill the void with the other easily exploitable labor pool….brown skin illegals….
    thus stopping the reversed wave of labor heading south of rio grande….and when the tide turns and usa is flush with
    cheap immigrant labor again, then we will have to bring them”out of the shadows” and give them citizenship and all the free shit that americans take for granted[or just simply takes]and of course,to protect them from exploitation..they will organize and become dues payers,and hired protestors at the next “HAY HO (pick a fadish protest topic)……….its a win-win for both political parties……and another splintered broomstick handle up the ass od the rest of us americans……

  20. Hilda Solis has ties to the United Farm Workers. That about explains it all.

  21. I see more of a “union angle”.

    Fewer jobs for kids, and fewer jobs for immigrants means more jobs for domestic labor interests.

    One trend I’ve noticed over the past 10 years is many fewer kids working minumum wage jobs at fast food joints. At the same time, unions have been trying to organize food service workers and pushing increases in the mimimum wage, which largely benefit them. It’s basically get the kids out, drive up wages, and turn those into projected jobs.

    Not that they’re having extraordinary success with it. I don’t think fast food workers are more likely to be unionized today. But there’s sort of a political interest in protecting those jobs and keeping them from going to immigrants and kids.

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