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Knowledge and safety go hand-in-hand on the farm

From the Farm

May 4, 2012
By Kerry Hoffman -

Chalk one up for common sense. That's not such an easy task when I refer to governmental pen pushers.

I know. I know. There are some people that work for our government that actually do a decent job, but then again, there are others that leave me shaking my head wondering, "What the"

I think the Department of Labor (DOL) employees believe the people owning, working and living on operating farms don't give a rip about any of their coworkers.

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Kerry Hoffman


We consider our employees family. We don't expect our employees to do anything we wouldn't do to keep our farm functioning. We warn them about power take offs, being in a pen with a new mother cow and we even strongly suggest they do not drink our milk directly from the bulk tank.

Well, several months ago, the DOL proposed a change to the child-labor laws in regards to having people under the age of 18 working on farms. Well, by the time they are 18, we pretty much would have missed the opportune time to teach them about farming, safety and all how to be a part of a successful team, because 18 seems to be the age that children think non-related adults have no brains.

And if a child hasn't worked on a farm before the age of 18, what do you think the odds are that he or she would be interested in a career in the agricultural industry?

Thankfully, the farmers of American spoke up and contacted elected officials and gave them our opinions and concerns.

The DOL has dropped all facets of the proposed changes and will not look at the topic for the remainder of the Obama administration.

I wrote a letter to Senator Al Franken. I tried to get hold of Michele Bachman, but she wasn't accepting any communications from people outside of her district. Hmph! To bad Steve doesn't live outside of my district; I could cut off communications with him when I was feeling overwhelmed.

According to the Janzen Ag Law Blog that I religiously read, the basis of the changes was this, as of October, 2011, "The proposed changes prohibit children under the age of 18 from working with animals and in pesticide handling, timber operations, manure pits and storage bins. They also prohibit youth at grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feedlots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.

"Children under the age of 16 would be prohibited from operating most power-driven equipment as well as connecting or disconnecting an implement or any part of the machine. All youths would be prohibited from using electronic devices while operating equipment as well.

"The proposed revisions do not apply to farm owners' children, but they do apply to other young relatives."

So, all my employees would not be able to drive tractors or empty out the manure pit. I couldn't take them to the elevator during fall harvest. They wouldn't be able to even set foot of my farm, because it may be considered a feedlot. I couldn't take the neighbor kid to the Sleepy Eye Auction Market!

I think the Obama administration slapped the intrusive hands of the Department of Labor.

You see, this is what happens when a person tries to make rules before he or she has any working knowledge of that particular situation.

According to a press release, "The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations. The Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations.

"As a result, the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations."

"The decision to withdraw this rule - including provisions to define the 'parental exemption' - was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration."

The DOL also said in the release that it will work with the "American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H," to reduce accidents suffered by young farm children and employees.

Hello? There are already tons of those types of programs available to agricultural producers.

It makes it blatantly obvious that the author of these proposed changes really doesn't have a clue when it comes to living and working family farms.

All I have to say is this, "These are our children. We would never put our children, relatives and employees in situations that could cost them their lives."

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at



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