The Department of Labor vs. America's Farm Kids
By Josiah Cantrall
America was built by farmers, and to this day, farming is a generational industry for many. So why are federal agencies, led by President Obama appointees, intent on taking steps that will undermine and ultimately destroy our nation's agricultural heartland?
It's no secret that liberals hold fatty, high-carbohydrate dairy and corn products directly responsible for our nation's obesity rates. They blame farting cows for a depleted ozone layer and consider farming streamlined animal abuse. Yet the government's attempt to effectively ban farm kids from working on their own farms goes beyond outrageous.
Under new standards being advocated by the Labor Department, youths under the age of eighteen would be prohibited from working in hay lofts, giving shots, caring for baby animals, and being in the vicinity of animals whose behavior may be "unpredictable." For the estimated 1.3 million youths living or working on farms, this means no longer being able to perform routine chores if the farm is set up as a corporation or a business partnership. Today, the vast majority of family farms are legally structured in this manner.
Citing agriculture's high fatality rate, uninformed liberal elites have taken it upon themselves to create an image of uneducated, backwards farmers who are too stupid to protect themselves and their children. In fact, the Labor Department believes that "[c]hildren employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America."
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
While America is busy engineering politically correct, "bubble-wrapped babies," farm kids are raised to endure adversity, work hard, and take responsibility.
Starting at very young ages, farm kids perform chores, fix machinery, and work with animals. I drove my first tractor when I was thirteen, and even then, I was behind the "learning curve." As a 130-pound high school freshman, I frequently wrestled 300-pound calves in order to perform routine chores like administering shots and tagging ears.
Was I a tough kid? Absolutely. We all were. We all are. My childhood was full of the strains, aches, and cuts liberal elites track as labor abuse statistics. Then and now, I view these temporary discomforts as evidence of a hard day's work.
Years beyond their peers in maturity and experience, farm kids are capable of handling adult responsibilities at a younger age. It's no surprise, then, that the majority of deaths and injuries occur to youth ages 16-19. Still, farm-related injuries among youths have declined 48% from 1998 to 2009.
On average, 113 youths under the age of twenty die annually from farm-related injuries. Dividing this number by America's 1.3 million farm kids results in a fatality rate of 8.7 deaths per 100,000 youths. However, 35% of these deaths are attributed to motor vehicles, ATVs, and drowning. Youth deaths are consequently 75%-85% lower than the 2009 adult fatality rate, which was 24.7 deaths per 100,000 workers.
In comparison, the Centers for Disease Control report that 716 bicyclists were killed in 2008, and a sample of 100 hospitals recorded that nearly 240,000 kids fourteen and younger were treated for bike-related accidents. In 2007, an additional 700-plus youths under the age of fourteen drowned.
Should we now ban kids from swimming and riding their bikes?
The University of Wisconsin attributes 63% of farm deaths to tractors and machinery -- tractor rollovers being the most common. If the Labor Department were actually concerned about farm safety, it could address this issue alone.
But it's never been about protecting people.
Bureaucrats hate the quintessential American culture of family farms. The independence-centered, "pull yourself up by your boot straps" emphasis on responsibility goes against everything they believe in. Simply put, people who think for themselves and work hard don't live off the government. And they certainly don't vote to keep liberals in power!
Farming is part of our identity. It is our way of life, our heritage, our patriotism, and the foundation of our generational values. Farming is the essence of our loyalty to our families and our God -- and there is nothing more sacred than that.
That's why unelected liberal elites don't want farm kids working on farms.
Josiah Cantrall was raised in the community of Farmington. He is a political pundit and columnist. www.josiahcantrall.com