There’s an old saying out there that goes something like, if you’re beating a dead horse, the best idea is to dismount.
But Congress hadn’t heard of this strategy, apparently, when it voted recently to bar the U.S. Labor Department from imposing those controversial child safety regulations that the Obama administration has already dropped.
The vote went down in the House this week, a voice vote that was reminiscent of the public outcry against the proposal when Labor Secretary Hilda Solis first floated it last year. The AP reported that the bill was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Frank Latham, an Iowa Republican, who echoed a common refrain on the list of complaints about the plan.
“The regulations imposed by the Department of Labor went beyond all common sense and would have destroyed opportunities for youth across the agricultural economy," Latham said.
As we’ve reported (and reported and reported) the Labor Department dropped the plan last April, faced with thousands of complaints that the plan didn’t understand farm culture, would hurt the family farm and would make grandparents into outlaws.
The plan did seem a bit preposterous to people in the Midwest. The proposed regulations would have barred kids under 16 from driving a tractor, working around animals and being in contact with pesticides – all common jobs around the farm. There was a parental exemption from the law – but that didn’t take into account extended family members, who are often farmers and ranchers and need the young labor.
This was a popular topic on the Harvest Network and lots of folks responded to my queries. Sue Musil, 62, of Ravenna, Neb., reflected many folks’ concern that keeping kids from working on the farm would affect their work ethic.
I think the government has their nose in too many things. Kids develop a strong work ethic when working on the farm. A majority of the kids now have never developed that ethic. When applying for jobs as these kids reach the age of 16, employers jump at the chance to hire kids who grew up on the farm. They know there is a work ethic and problem solving skills present that will work well for their company.
Is this issue over? Not yet. U.S. Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, has introduced Latham’s bill in the Senate.
We are having some fun with this issue this summer. We created a Tumblr that features our readers’ pictures of their kids working on their farms and agri-businesses. (Although we created it when the most popular farm hashtag on Twitter was #grow12 – it’s now #drought12.)