Last August, the Department of Labor looked around, scratched its head, and decided the new thing it should focus on was applying child labor laws to agricultural settings. Offhand, you're thinking, "Well, shouldn't they be applied?" Well, sure. In a corporate feed lot. What we're talking about here is the use of children on farms that those children's families own. Put into practice, these laws will, in the words of a Department of Labor press release, prohibit children under the age of 18 from "being employed in the storing, marketing, and transporting of farm product raw materials."(Via A Conservative Blog for Peace.) Share
Furthermore, the laws would designate a number of farm-related places as completely off limits to children. Dangerous places like country grain elevators. And silos. And... livestock auctions?
Our country isn't as loaded with family farms as it used to be hundreds of years ago, but such farms do, indeed, still exist, and these child labor laws would do nothing short of hurt them.
According to Secretary of Labor Solis, the reason for this move is simple. "Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America," she says. "Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department." It doesn't take a genius to know that any time the government cites the children as a reason for an action, all of us should be extraordinarily nervous.
So let's look at what these laws would accomplish, before we determine why.
Off the top of my head (where all great ideas come from), I can think of at least two ways the application of these laws would be detrimental. First off is the fact that any family farm which relies on its children to help pick up the slack will now be forced to hire outside help, which, like any kind of hiring, is going to cost some money. Many farms barely make enough money to stick around without hiring outside workers; it's easy to see where adding this expense would be enough to shut those kinds of farms down.
Secondly, this move will cut children off from the family business in an obvious, substantial way. For what would probably be the first time in human history, we would suddenly see a number of children managing to grow up on farms without having any clue whatsoever how they run or how to run them. This isn't notable just for its absurdity; its notable because, without a generation of educated farm kids, we will undoubtedly soon be lacking in educated farm adults. (Read entire article.)