I was raised on a family farm, where I did all sorts of farm work in my formative years.
Let’s see—I fed and watered calves, drove cattle, milked cows, washed the dairy barn, searched for lost livestock, fed and watered sheep, gave medicine to sheep, docked lambs, fed swine, chickens, ducks, geese and goats, butchered chickens, gathered eggs, chased various escaping animals, rode a horse, fixed fences, hauled grain, sowed wheat, plowed and worked ground, cut hay, baled hay, hauled hay, picked and husked corn, loaded silage, ground grain.
At various times I operated vehicles, including pickups, tractors and combines.
When I look back on all of this, I see farm labor as an important part of my upbringing. It taught me a lot about life, work and responsibility.
I think most people raised on farms would probably say something similar. Living and working on a farm is a way of life.
But recent regulations proposed by the Obama Administration’s Department of Labor may severely restrict such work for young people on farms today—and, by an amazing coincidence, increase opportunities for undocumented Democrats illegal aliens.
(I pause briefly to ask a Constitutional question: Where did the federal Department of Labor get the right to issue unilateral decrees, without even congressional approval, over the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in our fifty states? How have we gotten to this point?)
In 2011, the Department of Labor proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Of course, there was no outcry from farm country wanting these changes. But of course, the Obama Administration claims it’s for safety, “for the children”, etc etc. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis asserted:
"Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America. Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department, and this proposal is another element of our comprehensive approach.”
US Labor Department Proposes Updates to Child Labor Regulations, [WHD News Release, August 31, 2011]
Erin Herbold-Swalwell and Roger A. McEowen of Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation have done a good job summarizing the details: New Labor Rules Target Young Farm Workers, Western Farm Press, October 3, 2011.
These rules would apply to young people under 16—not (yet) to those working for their parents, but certainly to young people working on farms owned by neighbors or “non-parental relatives” i.e. uncles or grandparents.
This just shows how much the Obamacrats are out of touch with America’s farm belt. In multi-generational farm families, you often have several siblings or other relatives living in close proximity. Parts of the operation may be owned by several family members. Some of the land may be rented. Some family farms are technically considered limited liability corporations or other such arrangements. It can get complicated.
Johnny might work on his dad’s farm, but he might also go right next door to his uncle’s property to work for him a few hours in the afternoon. These rule changes would make that traditional practice much more difficult.
Under these rules, kids wouldn’t get to drive (or sometimes even ride!) tractors. Typically, farm youngsters drive tractors from an early age. I did. My 14-year old nephew, an experienced tractor driver, tells me he started driving a tractor at about age 7 and was driving in the field by 9 or 10.
Not only do the new regulations prohibit the kids’ driving tractors, except under certain conditions, they can’t even ride the tractors!
Farm kids would also be restricted from working with livestock.
To be sure, livestock, like farm machinery, can be dangerous. I remember my dad told me never to turn my back on a bull. But does the DOL think farmers aren’t aware of the dangers? That’s precisely why farm children are exposed to the farm operations from an early age, then gradually placed into positions of more and more responsibility.
Solis’ department is even concerned that the young farm folks in the Midwest might get too cold or too hot. Horrors!
After releasing new proposals, the Department of Labor allowed a period of public comment, which ended November 1, 2011.
The outcry was so great that DOL announced on February 1 that it would “re-propose” the “Parental Exemption” regulation.
The new plan is for the “re-proposal” to be released so that another period of public comment can follow this summer.
However, it’s not entirely clear how much will really be changed. The DOL statement only refers to the parental exemption, which may or may not be stretched to accommodate other relatives.
In the words of Jordan Dux of the Nebraska Farm Bureau: "For the Department of Labor to only take care of this little piece, in our opinion, is kind of a slap in the face." [Watchdog Group Refining Stance on Child Farm Labor , by Art Hovey, Sioux City Journal, Feb 5, 2012]
A possibly encouraging sign: some interest in this topic has emerged in Congress. Amazing—Congress wanting something to do with making our laws! Should that all just be left up to high-ranking political appointees and bureaucrats? [Congress Debates Child Farm Labor Rules, by Elizabeth Wynne Johnson, Oregon Public Broadcasting, February 2, 2012]
Speaking of high-ranking political appointees, VDARE.COM readers should note another pertinent detail: Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, a Hispanic of mixed Mexican-Nicaraguan parentage, is a long-time booster of illegal aliens.
In Los Angeles, she once assured an audience at a Latino voter registration conference that “We are all Americans, whether you are legalized or not."
And Solis has not abandoned her campaign for illegal aliens since taking office as Secretary of Labor in 2009. Which is why Michelle Malkin entitled a 2010 column about Solis The U.S. Department of Illegal Alien Labor.
It’s not just that Secretary Solis has not attempted to rid the workforce of illegal aliens. It’s that she’s actively encouraging them—reassuring them in a public service announcement, providing them with a special phone number with which to report their employers. Solis wants to make sure illegals get paid and even receive a raise, and she’s hired hundreds of new DOL employees to defend them. See Universal Rights Extend to Alabama, DOL Blog, by Secretary Hilda Solis on December 21, 2011 ·
What a contrast! The same Department of Labor which is willing to harass American citizen family farmers and turn their way of life upside down is actively encouraging foreign illegal aliens to work in the United States.
Is it a coincidence that driving some of these young farm workers off their farms means that they may very well be replaced by illegal alien labor?
VDARE.com’s Patrick Cleburne has already noted a similar pattern in dairy farming. Mass illegal immigration has stimulated the over-expansion of huge dairy “factory farms” in the thinly-peopled Intermountain West, undercutting the family dairy farms of Vermont, who are then themselves forced to turn in desperation to illegal aliens, with the eager encouragement of their Treason Lobby/ Democratic politicians like Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Hey—whatever it takes to elect a new people!
If we absolutely must have a Department of Labor, is this what it’s supposed to be doing?
American citizen Allan Wall (email him) moved back to the U.S.A. after many years residing in Mexico. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here; his News With Views columns are archived here; and his website is here.