Child Labor

For those of you who were following the Department of Labor’s proposed rules (85 pages of ’em) about child labor on farms, they have been withdrawn by DOL. The latest statistics I could find included  Meanwhile, over 8000 children die in car accidents to the 300 in on-farm accidents. Do I intend to diminish a single one of those precious lives? NO! What I wish to do is point out that the rules are often created or redesigned for the demographic most controllable. It is not so easy to ban children from their parents’ cars. I am so proud and thankful of the progress made to protect our most vulnerable in the farming industry…I pray for a comparable decrease in all industries/activities. I do not believe more laws will fix this, I do believe care and caution and education is the answer. And these regulation and rule changers are not even elected officials.

Most of us freedom loving, 4-H, and FFA supporters are happy about this. If you have not been following this latest example of mandates from above, here’s a synopsis:

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 youths 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.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced April 26 that it is withdrawing its proposed rule dealing with children who work in the agriculture sector.

The department said in its statement:

“”… 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.

“Instead, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with rural stakeholders — such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H — to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices.”

Farmers and children and politicians think this is a good idea – when does that happen 🙂

“As a mother of two active children working on a multigeneration farm, I appreciate the effort to protect the safety of my children,” said agriculture advocate and AgWeb blogger Cheryl Day. “However, creating a list of banned activities-performed by myself and many farmers and ranchers as a kid threatened the future of agriculture.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the Senate Ag Committee, said she was glad the Department of Labor listened to the concerns of farm families.

“There must be strong safeguards to protect children from dangerous situations, but there needs to be an understanding that many children in rural communities learn about safety by helping their family on the farm,” Stabenow said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called the rule “ridiculous” and said that withdrawing it just made sense.

“It’s good the Labor Department rethought the ridiculous regulations it was going to stick on farmers and their families. It would have been devastating to farm families across the country,” Grassley said. “Much of rural America was built on families helping families, neighbors helping neighbors. To even propose such regulations defies common sense, and shows a real lack of understanding as to how the family farm works. I’m glad the Obama administration came to its senses.”

excerpts taken from

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey joined in the chorus of relief, saying, “We need to encourage young people to be involved with agriculture and learn from responsible adults about how to operate machinery and care for animals. These proposed rules would have done just the opposite.”

I would like to add that farm safety should be paramount at every farm. The rate of childhood injury on farms has declined by nearly 60% since 1998, a sign that research and education have made a significant impact – without 85 pages of rules from the DOL.


About stillmansfarm

Stillman's Farm® is a family owned farm in Massachusetts. We currently operate at two locations: a greenhouse/retail business in Lunenburg, and the majority of vegetable production in New Braintree. Glenn Stillman started the business in Lunenburg over 20 years ago and now enjoys the promise of the next generation further expanding the very diverse enterprise. The farm also has several Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs established in Boston, Lunenburg, Jamaica Plain, Brookline, New Braintree and the Southborough/Framingham area. In addition, the Stillman's trucks have become a fixture at the Boston Area Farmer's Markets. Our Philosophy Most of Stillman's produce is grown without chemicals. For a few crops this simply is not feasible. For these particular crops, we participate in the State Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. This entails systematic scouting of fields, protection of beneficial insects, bio-controls, and well-timed applications of only the safest pesticides. With growing concern about genetically modified organisms (GMO), as a patron you can be confident that none of the produce we grow have been engineered, in fact, we often experiment with many heirloom varieties! Conscientiously Grown® The combination of no pesticides, good cultivation management, and IPM practices allows us to offer the widest possible selection of fruit and vegetable varieties and be a thriving sustainable farm. We have developed our own label, "conscientiously grown" to convey our commitment to the safety of our environment, family and customers. All of our hormone free, pasture raised meats carry a conscientiously grown label too!
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