6 Nov 2011 - "The POLICE are at it Again!"

Over the past couple of months I have heard from several of you expressing concern about proposed rule changes affecting young people who work on farms and ranches. One e-mail said . . . "Mr. Samuelson, you’ve talked about the CDL - Commercial Driver’s License, you’ve talked about controlling dust, you’ve talked about the 'food Police', well, it is time you talk about 'Kid’s police', because it is coming; rule changes that will affect what youngsters on farms and ranches can do."

Indeed, it is true. The Department of Labor has proposed the first change in the Fair Labor Standards Act since the 1970's that would indeed affect young farm workers. The comment period on the proposals ended November 1st, but it is not over. The Labor Department will hold public hearings to determine which of the proposals should become permanent rules.

Erin Herbold-Swalwell is a labor attorney in Des Moines, IA., who writes a monthly column in Wallace’s Farmer. This is what she says about the proposed rule change... "The Department of Labor is proposing rules prohibiting hired workers less than 16 years of age from working with certain animals, handling pesticides, working in timber operations and working in or around manure pits and storage bins. In addition, these workers would also be prohibited from participation in the cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco and from using electronic devices while operating power-driven equipment." Hired workers, 18 years of age and younger, would be prohibited from working in grain elevators, feedlots, stockyards and livestock exchanges and auctions.

Two things to keep in mind... these are proposed rules and they would not apply to young people working on farms operated by their parents. But, if you have grandchildren, nieces or nephews under 16 who spend time with you on the farm or ranch and you pay them to do chores, then these rules would apply to you.

One e-mail writer said... "They are destroying the idea of the family farm. They are making it impossible for young people to get practical farm experience and learn by doing." I realize farming is a dangerous occupation and I am truly concerned about practicing safety in everything we do, but as I look at these proposed rules, I’m sure I would have violated 90% of them by the time I turned 16... and I’m still here, alive and well!

Last week I said watch out for the food police; this week, I add to that and suggest you watch out for the kid’s police. Government intrusion in our daily lives just keeps on coming.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.