On Dec. 1, 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor closed a public comment period on its proposed updates to child labor regulations aimed at safety concerns in agriculture-related jobs. Since then, the Keep Families Farming website has been established to support the legislative effort on Capitol Hill, where this issue will almost certainly be voted on this summer. In the pages that follow are comments received and posted on their website.
I think my 11-year-old grandson said it best the other day. He was asking his dad and uncle, who farm in partnership along with me (good-old grandpa), question after question while we were working on machinery in the shop. When we asked, ‘Why so many questions?’ his reply was, ‘I want to be a farmer, and if you don’t teach me, who will?’ Out of the mouths of those who will feed the world in the future!
Family farms are the foundation from which much of this great nation was built. It teaches the principles of hard work and responsibility and the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of your labor, which instill pride and independence, much of which is lacking in today’s society. We’re already losing the ‘next generation’ of farmers due to regulation gone amok. How many more nails in the coffin do we need?
Lino Lakes, Minnesota
We need our youth to understand and be able to operate the farms/agricultural business in order to survive. No farmers – no food!
Salem, New York
I am a 21-year-old college student at Tarleton State University agriculture college. I am a product of working hard, understanding agriculture and loving, caring parents. Growing up, I was required to muck stalls for my horses, lift hay bales, build fence, drive tractors to plow the arena or move hay. I moved waters and took care of my family ranch at 15 years old when my father went to Wyoming for work. I was “taming” horses for $500 a week at 13 years old – how exactly do you think I am paying for college? I am paying for college through my horse skills and my 4-H projects.
We are a family farm – four children, two still at home – ages 16 and 12. As a family, we do most of the farm work together. My 12-year-old son can run a tractor, use a welder and a cutting torch (all things taught to him by his dad) and sees ideas and improvements that his parents do not visualize – all because our children have been by our sides since they were very young. But this issue with the federal government involves so many more people than just farm families. Most of the young people that live in rural America work for farmers or ranchers or a farm-type industry during their teenage years. These kids are hard workers, willing to learn and courteous because of their upbringing. For generations, people that have an agricultural background make for the best employees. As a nation, we should be nurturing the work ethic, not beating it down.
This is where we teach our children the work ethic. They learn to do the small jobs that are so very important on a farm and ranch. They learn to drive at an early age and, with that, learn the responsibility that goes with driving. The youth that grow up on farms and ranches are the solid adults that have the backbone to make this country strong again.
I learned more the two months I worked on my grandfather’s Kansas farm than I did growing up in the city. I saw the benefit of raising your own food, working the fields with a tractor, being your own boss and learning concern for the land. Now I know where early Americans learned their work ethic. Although I’m 65, I still like going to the farm.
Supportive Senators and Representatives*
Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas)
Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
Senator James Risch (R-Idaho)
Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas)
Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota)
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-Montana)
Congressman Walter Jones (R-North Carolina)
Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-Kentucky)
Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia)
Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas)
Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas)
Congressman John Shimkus (R-Illinois)
Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas)
Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota)
American Farm Bureau Federation
Kansas Farm Bureau
Kansas Association of Wheat Growers
Kansas Soybean Association
Kansas Farmers Union
National Milk Producers Federation
Iowa Farm Bureau
Missouri Farm Bureau
Idaho Farm Bureau
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
*As listed on Keep Families Farming website