Commentary: New regulations threaten ag

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True to form for a federal government overreaching in its attempt to control more and more aspects of our lives, it is busy setting more regulations. This time, the Department of Labor has proposed a new barrage of regulations that involve youth under the age of 18 and sets new restrictions on what type of agriculture work this age group would no longer be permitted to do.

If the rule is finalized, the regulations would prohibit the young set from working around grain storage bins or elevators, silos, feedlots, stockyards and livestock auctions.

The rules also would prohibit youth from “operating or assisting to operate” farm machinery over 20 PTO horsepower. In addition, tasks involving work at elevations over six feet and near manure storage areas would be prohibited.

Granted, the more attention we pay to farm safety for workers of all ages, the better off we are. But isn’t that already being looked after by Occupational Safety and Health Administration? The proposed DOL child labor regulations seem the epitome of over-regulation.

It makes me wonder how young people have heretofore survived growing up on a farm. It also makes me wonder why Washington bureaucrats feel the need to tell agriculture the minimum age workers need to be before they will be permitted to do certain work. Where in the Constitution does it say that this is the job of our government?

The answer lies in the fact that in order to retain their grip on power, some effete Washington bureaucrats feel the need to extend their grip on power. And how is this accomplished? More regulations, of course.

Naturally, agriculture associations all over the country are requesting the DOL make a considerable number of changes before the proposal is finalized. The American Farm Bureau Federation objected on behalf of more than 70 agricultural organizations in response to DOL proposal.

According to the groups’ comments, the proposed rules indicate that DOL lacks a full understanding of modern farm practices and production. Another farm group cautions the DOL in implementing regulations that “may discourage children from learning about agriculture.”

Most important is the proposal’s potential impact on family farms. Indeed, how will young people learn about agriculture if they cannot perform the work until they are over the age of 18? By that age, they may well be making advances in some industry less encumbered by excessive regulations.

DOL’s proposed restrictions on youth working in agriculture along with the removal of student-learner exemptions for certain agricultural tasks will likely drive many young people out of agriculture where they are desperately needed.

Take the 17-year-old who has worked part-time at the community grain elevator or at a nearby feedlot being told he or she can no longer work there. The individual may have several years or more of experience, maybe has already received a promotion and is motivated to continue building a career in agriculture.

When these displaced young people take jobs selling cellular phones or working in a factory assembling computers, agriculture loses more lifeblood. Don’t hold your breath for them to come back to agriculture when they hit their 18th birthday.

At present, only two percent of all Americans are involved in agriculture. The way the Washington bureaucrats are going, we’ll soon be down to 1 percent or less.



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