In opposing an attempt by the government to further regulate farm labor, farmers across the Midwest are celebrating the defeat of a federal initiative that would have barred children from operating for compensation power equipment on private land.
Specifically, to curb the number of youth fatalities in the industry, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a measure to require paid farm workers to be at least 16 years old to operate power equipment, such as tractors. Further, they would have to be at least 18 years old to work at silos, feedlots, grain elevators, as well as other related activities the government deemed hazardous.
Dennis Mosbacher, a farmer who adamantly opposed the measure, asserted that the Labor Department was severely misguided in its effort to impose such regulations on the farming industry. “You can’t make a rule to stop every accident,” said Mosbacher, whose 10-year-old son helps out at their family farm in a small Illinois town. “There’s always a risk in life, no matter what you do.”
Mosbacher's wife, Debbie, said the Labor Department’s proposed rules ignore the fact that children growing up on farms are raised to understand the dangers of farm work and are slowly eased into more risky chores. When it comes to children helping out, “a lot of times, yes, it’s a necessity,” she averred. "A 10-year-old may not be able to load a 70-pound bale. But everyone's got a job to do, and if you wait until they're 18 to teach them it won't be something that's instinctive in them."
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