Should we do more to keep kids safe on farms?

The Harvest is a 2010 documentary that raised concerns about safety standards for young farm workers

Over the last week, four North Country news organizations — including NCPR — have wrestled with the issue of farm worker safety, reporting on new rules designed to protect teenagers who work on farms.

Most of those reports, in the Watertown Daily Times, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and the Glens Falls Post Star gave the lion’s share of attention to critics of the proposed Federal regulations.

Farmers, industry groups and Rep. Bill Owens generally describe the rules as a case of bureaucratic overreach, with the New York Farm Bureau accusing the Department of Labor of telling farmers “how to raise our kids.”

In my reporting, I also found some credible and compelling sources who have a very different take on this issue.

John Myers, an expert on work safety at the Centers for Disease Control, told me that kids working on farms face risks of injury and fatality that are three times higher than in other industries.

Even though relatively few American kids work on farms these days, farm-work fatalities now account for the majority of work-related deaths for young people.

“When I compare them to other kids working in other places, the numbers [of injuries and deaths] are just so out of line…it’s just hard to ignore them,” Myers said.

Groups including Human Rights Watch and Farmworker Justice have embraced the new rules, arguing that many large-scale modern farms are more like factories.

It’s also noteworthy that last month the non-partisan political fact-checking organization Politifact reviewed fears about bureaucratic overreach raised by the ag industry and members of Congress and concluded that they are “mostly false.”

“The proposed rules are aimed at protecting children involved in agribusiness, not at children learning farming from their flannel-clad dads,” Politifact found.  “We find the orchestrated criticism misleading…”

So what do you think?  Is this an industry trying to preserve child labor standards that were abolished in other risky workplaces decades ago?  Is it a traditional way of life threatened by “clueless” bureaucrats?

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68 Responses to “Should we do more to keep kids safe on farms?”

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  1. Kathy says:

    It is bureaucrat overreach. It insults the intelligence of parents. Yes, farming is rated one of the most dangerous industries but give the parents some credit for keeping their children safe.

    We raised our children on a dairy farm and utmost care was given for their safety. But sadly, things do happen. The farm life taught my sons an incredible work ethic that I’ve been told by several employers is missing today in so many young men.

    We cannot regulate or remove everything that has the potential of causing injury or death.

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  2. Brian Mann says:

    Kathy – What did your family experience with the kids in terms of safety/accidents?

    Do you have advice for other parents raising kids on the farm?

    –Brian, NCPR

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  3. Jim Bullard says:

    I worked on a neighbor’s farm when I was a kid and remember more than once that I narrowly escaped serious injury. It wasn’t a “factory farm” either (1950s). Adults can be as blind to the potential for injury as kids and such rules can raise the awareness of dangers that might otherwise be overlooked.

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  4. Pete Klein says:

    The problem with the parent argument is that there are parents and then there are parents. This is true for all walks of life.
    Laws are based upon the worst case scenario, not the best.
    Some people will obey traffic laws even if no cop is around to enforce the laws. Others will break it if they think they can get away with it.

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  5. Brian Mann says:

    I think the other issue here — one that seems sort of hard for Americans to keep in their sights — is that a lot of these kids aren’t working for their parents.

    Many of them are working alongside their parents in the fields, or in dairies, but they’re working for employers.

    We think of America as a place where kids go to school. But a lot of poor young people go to the fields or the barns instead.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  6. Paul says:

    “Over the last week, four North Country news organizations — including NCPR — have wrestled with the issue of farm worker safety, reporting on new rules designed to protect teenagers who work on farms.”

    What are they “wrestling” with? It isn’t their issue. Isn’t it just something that needs to be reported on?

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  7. Paul says:

    “Groups including Human Rights Watch and Farmworker Justice have embraced the new rules, arguing that many large-scale modern farms are more like factories.”

    Are there more accidents now than in the past? Is the modern farm more dangerous than the less than modern farm?

    These are dangerous places no doubt about that. The law should be fashioned to do whatever the farmers and their families think is right for them. Despite what Politifact says the important thing is how does it affect the business both negatively and positively. I can’t imagine that having lots of accidents and your workers dying is good for business?

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  8. Brian Mann says:

    Paul –

    Good questions. The research on this is a little bit complicated, but Myers — who is sort of the expert at CDC — says broadly there has been a positive trend in some areas of accident injuries on farms. The industry is really proud of its efforts at improving farm safety and says they’ve made good strides at reducing injuries without more government regulation.

    But Myers also found that the rate of fatalities (as opposed to injuries) isn’t coming down in the same way. He says he hopes to do more research to answer the question why that’s the case. And there are some areas (the growing use of ATV 4-wheelers, for example) where rates are actually climbing.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  9. dave says:

    “farming is rated one of the most dangerous industries but give the parents some credit for keeping their children safe.”

    This is an obvious contradiction. If parents were keeping their children safe on farms, then farming wouldn’t be rated one of the most dangerous industries for children.

    See, this is the problem with situations like this. You have people who want the government to back off and who say that parents can take care of their kids on farms… but the reality – the facts, the statistics (and these people will admit to them) – is that children are getting hurt on farms.

    So we either back off and let parents continue to “keep their kids safe”, which means 3 times as many kids will be injured or die… or we, as a society, step in to protect these kids and say that it is not acceptable for this to be happening.

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  10. JDM says:

    Brian: “Many of them are working alongside their parents in the fields, or in dairies, but they’re working for employers.”

    I can go along with that.

    It would be ideal if lawmakers recognized the distinction between employer/employee and parent/child.

    In other words, not usurp the parent/child structure. If a parent is also an employer of others, the person who wears both hats will have to understand the difference as well.

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  11. Kathy says:

    Brian, we raised 4 sons and a daughter before we sold the dairy. A rule we made was never, ever would we allow our children to ride on the tractor. No exceptions. That is one piece of advice I would give.

    There was also no stepping over the power take off/shaft. EVER.

    There was only one incident that I remember and it was minor. The boys were on top of a load of hay and the weight of the hay broke one side and they came tumbling down with the hay. The wagon was parked.

    I am all about safety and so every day I repeated the rules. I think that helped because it reminded them to be careful. But I also realized that accidents are waiting to happen everywhere – like every time we get in a car.

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  12. Claudia MacDonald says:

    This is not an easy issue to ‘wrestle’ with.
    My thoughts turn to the Amish in our area.
    They do not abide by many of the rules and regulations which the English are required to adhere to.
    Too many Amish children (and adults) and alternative families as well as migrant workers and local farm families suffer serious consequences on their farms, in their modes of transportation and in their lack of education as a direct result of their life choices.
    Parents are not always the best guardians of their children and their children’s safety.
    I don’t have any answers…just observations.

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  13. Kathy says:

    Dave, we get in a “metal box” and drive 75mph on the freeway and don’t think about it.

    Somewhere along the way society has taken the liberty to be involved with too much of our personal lives. Again, there are serious situations that I am aware of. Yet, the more you take away parental authority the more the government and professionals deem they know better. What’s that going to look like 10-20 years from now?

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  14. Brian Mann says:

    Kathy –

    I actually think the trend lines are going in the other direction.

    I think it’s conceivable that in 10 or 20 years a growing devotion to the wisdom of market forces and laissez-faire economics will lead politicians to revoke a lot of existing child labor laws.

    We could very easily see a dismantling of standardized public education, and a “reacceptance” of the notion that a significant percentage of poor and working class children will go to work at early ages (14? 15?).

    We will also decide in more and more cases that things like OSHA regulations are inappropriate and that “socialist” ideas like minimum wage rules are too restrictive.

    Which means that the safety conditions and working standards for these young people will vary widely from company to company.

    This is already the approach that American industry follows when it outsources manufacturing to places like China and Vietnam, so the “morality” of this approach has already been internalized.

    After all, if we’re comfortable with children making our Ipods for pennies an hour in Asia, why not get comfortable with kids doing the same in south Texas or East LA or the Garment District?

    I want to quibble with one factual premise of your last comment.

    A significant percentage of the kids who are working now — on farms and in other industries in the US — are doing so not because parents have made good, ethical thoughtful choices about their children’s welfare.

    They are putting their kids to work because they are desperate for the money.

    This isn’t true in all cases, obviously. But in many cases, the “market forces” that drive family decisions for poor people leave very little room to maneuver.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  15. Paul says:

    The “industry” that I work around has become much safer over the past several decades and it gets safer all the time. Some of that is based on things like OSHA and other regulations but more of it is self prescribed. There is too much liability with running and unsafe operation these days. Now that should have an impact on an industrial farm but not on a family farm (I doubt that an injured kid is going to sue his parents!). But I guess the data say that we don’t see that dynamic on a large farm with many outside employees??

    Brian when you say “isn’t coming down” is there a significant decrease despite the slow progress? ATV’s are a good point. Having a good friend who owns a cattle ranch in Colorado they do use ATV’s and it has a very positive impact on what they can get done as opposed to not using them despite the risk. One good thing about an ATV is that you don’t have to worry about getting kicked in the head by one! But they have other problems for sure.

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  16. dave says:

    Kathy, what do you mean we don’t think about driving? We absolutely do. We have speed limits, we have seatbelt laws, there are safety manufacturing laws for the vehicles, there are cops patrolling the roads… oh, and there are plenty of laws specifically geared toward protecting children in cars. Mandatory car seats for the very young, and we don’t let children drive until a certain age, and on and on and on.

    We recognize that driving is dangerous and we have taken steps as a society to try to reduce those risks and protect people.

    Likewise, here we are recognizing that farming is dangerous to children and are taking steps to reduce that risk. It would be wonderful if every family was as mindful of safety (and as lucky) as yours was. But I am sure you realize that that is not the case… and if you don’t, just look at the injury and death statistics again.

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  17. It's Still All Bush's Fault says:

    I suppose that my experience must be far different from the norm based on the studies and the statistics.

    I was part of a large family raised on a dairy farm. The farm was small by today’s standard. There were no injuries (children or parents) that resulted from the operation of the farm. The operation spanned the times of horse drawn equipment to today’s modern machinery. We were all taught about PTOs, augers, kicker balers, corn choppers, etc.

    Long ago, I left the farm and now work in industry. Any opportunity that I have had to hire someone who grew up on a farm, I took it. I found that those employees possessed a good work ethic that had been instilled at a young age. They already understood that it was important to show up on time and sometimes work involved long hours. They knew how to work whether it was hot, cold, wet or dirty. They knew how to work with and around moving equipment. With the demise of the family farms and farming, in general, this is a shrinking group and that is unfortunate.

    1) I am not saying that none of us got hurt, but it was from climbing trees and playing sports, not farming activities.

    2) I am not saying that those who don’t grow up on farms don’t have a good work ethic, I am simply relaying my experience over the last 50 years in NNY.

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  18. Pete Klein says:

    Dave, you forgot to point out to Kathy that if she is driving 75 mph, she is exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph.

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  19. Paul says:

    “I actually think the trend lines are going in the other direction. ”

    Brian, I must be completely out of touch (I guess that is why we have you!). It seems to me like things are trending in the other direction (the rhetoric may be trending the other way). Didn’t you just say above that things are getting safer but that they are not getting safer fast enough in some regards? Look at the logging industry as an example. You can hardly find a guy in the woods with a chainsaw these days. Now he (or she) is encased inside a machine that does all the unsafe stuff with the push of a button. Same goes for the person running the automated assembly line.

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  20. Paul says:

    This is really one of those discussions without the facts. What are some of the new rules? Maybe they are reasonable maybe not. The other thing to consider, as with any new rules, how will these be enforced. This is a pointless process if the people you are going to regulate don’t really have to modify their behavior. It is difficult to enforce things on a private farm. In some cases the best way to accomplish the goal is to educate people why these common sense things make sense.

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  21. Paul says:

    Brain,

    I looked again at your story and the supplementals. You do a good job on reporting on the “war of words”. But what about the proposed rules? What are they? It is hard to determine which side is being unreasonable when the whole story is just about the bickering.

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  22. dave says:

    The rules that Owens seems to have a problem with are the rules that do not allow children to operate farm equipment (he says that includes wheelbarrows), the rule that changes the definition of a hazardous job (no idea on the details), and the rules that change the definition of family farm to exclude corporations and limited liability companies.

    I’d be interested in knowing if farmers would be ok with these rules if it specifically exempted the children of the owner of the farm. In other words, is opposition to this really about preserving the ability of dad/mom and son/daughter to work together on a farm and teach and learn values and ethics… or is this more about maintaining access to a work force.

    It is easy, I think, for most people to sympathize with the former, not so much the latter.

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  23. Paul says:

    Dave, thanks this helps some. If they want to prevent children from operating farm machinery good luck with that. Maybe a good idea but pretty unrealistic. So I can let my 14 year old (I would not do this by the way) run a tractor down my private drive to my camp to smooth the road but a family with a farm can’t let a kid do the same thing? Seriously?

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  24. Paul says:

    I found them here:

    http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=WHD-2011-0001-0001

    At first glance they look reasonable and second glance some parts are not so reasonable.

    For example you can’t have anyone under the age of 16 even assisting with a number of tasks that a small farmer would probably need the help of his teenage son to accomplish in many instances.

    One example is putting equipment on a tractor even when it is not running. Or feeding logs to someone who is using a chainsaw.

    I bet the kids will be all for this law. Sorry son you can’t help me go back inside and play your video games!!

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  25. Paul says:

    This one is interesting:

    “Youth should be prohibited from
    engaging, or assisting, in animal
    husbandry practices that inflict pain
    upon the animal and/or are likely to
    result in unpredictable animal behavior.
    These activities include, but would not
    be limited to, branding, breeding,
    dehorning, vaccinating, castrating, and
    treating sick or injured animals.”

    Youth would be prohibited from helping to treat sick or injured animals? You gotta be kidding me. This is one of the best learning opportunities that a kid has on a farm and they can’t be involved! I wouldn’t support this. The more you look at the details the more I side with those that are opposed to this.

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  26. mervel says:

    If this actually applies to children of the farmer and the kids are working on their own farms, the whole thing is nuts. I mean branding? Think of the impact of that on every ranch out west. It is a true intrusion into family life. I assume then this would apply to letting your child feed the dog or give the cat treats? Both are animals that are often unpredictable, that would be outlawed. Who has time to sit around and come up with this junk and how much do they make? Brian I honestly think you listen to right wing talk radio too much, government today is larger than it has ever been with expanded powers not less powers, there is absolutely no indication that we are looking at dismantling anything.

    Now if this applies to the paid labor of farm hands who are not the sons and daughters of the farmer, I think that is a different story then all labor laws should apply just as they would to any other business.

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  27. mervel says:

    I grew up on a farm, and YES it is dangerous work, but government cannot stop that and should not stop that process. If you want to create even more hate and distrust of government from rural people and farmers and ranchers then have some government suite come on out to the ranch and tell a 15 year old boy and his dad that it is against the law for him to help his dad work cattle, he is doing what his dad did and his dad did before him and now some guy from the government is going to come on the ranch and tell him not to work on the ranch?

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  28. Jason says:

    “We could very easily see a dismantling of standardized public education, and a “reacceptance” of the notion that a significant percentage of poor and working class children will go to work at early ages (14? 15?).”

    I think Brian is way off base here. He has completely ignored the fact that the kids working on farms in NY aren’t poor kids supporting their families instead of going to school. This just isn’t reality and is an insult to our hard-working farmers.

    The young people working on farms that I am familiar with are usually middle class kids, in fact. And, don’t forget, there are strict regulations that say how many hours a teenager can work each week and that they can’t work during school hours. Let’s not forgot, we’re talking about 14 and 15 year olds here, not 8-year-olds–that’s already illegal. These regulations say the teenager who push mows my grandmother’s lawn wouldn’t be able to do that on a farm. This is ridiculous and I think Brian missed the point here. Coloring the issue by saying farmers oppose this regulation because they are taking advantage of poor families is absolutely disgusting and the author should be embarrassed he is so out of touch.

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  29. dave says:

    According to the National Agriculture Workers Survey, between 1993 and 1998 56% of all child farm workers (14 to 17) were living in poverty.

    That survey also points out that local rural youth – of the kind I assume everyone here has in mind – made up a very small portion of child farm workers nation wide.

    So I think it is important to remember that rules like these are designed to address national problems. A lot of commenters here seem to be basing their opinions on their own life experiences, which, while relevant to the individual, is not necessarily representative of the situation. I certainly wouldn’t want our government basing national policy on a sample size of just me.

    And Brian has already mentioned the stats dealing with death and injury. So again, sure YOUR experience may be that farm work can be safe, but clearly the data is telling a different story about the overall situation.

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  30. mervel says:

    The point is the intrusion into family life, family farm life is built around working as a team to make the farm operate. I mean you couldn’t have kept me away from driving a tractor at 14 let alone 16, it was part of growing up a part of the family etc.

    If this law is aimed at paid farm labor not related to the family, i.e. farm workers and their families then that is a different issue dealing with labor rights and labor law.

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  31. dave says:

    Mervel, the proposed changes include changing the language to include something called a parental exception. As best as I can tell, that attempts to address situations like you – and many other commenters – are talking about.

    The summary to the new rules includes the following sentence: “The proposed agricultural revisions would impact only hired farm workers and in no way compromise the statutory child labor parental exemption involving children working on farms owned or operated by their parents.”

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  32. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Thank you dave!!!!!

    Everyone has their union suit in a bunch, but actual family members are exempt from these rules, as far as I have heard.

    Some of you have pointed out that farm kids are good workers. They work hard, don’t complain and have lots of experience in a wide variety of situations, but it is one thing to put your own kids into the very dangerous situations that can occur on a farm and it is totally different to put someone else’s kid — maybe some kid who wasn’t raised around animals or equipment — into situations where they might lose their limbs or their life to one moment of carelessness or ignorance.

    I’ve known farmers with decades of experience, from farm families of many generations that have lost limbs or been killed by that single second of inattention. We can pay a little more for our food.

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  33. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Let me repeat: We can pay a little more for our food.

    This is the real problem here. Small family farms struggle to make money while giant corporate farms profit on small margins through government subsidies.
    That is the real problem that needs to be dealt with.

    Isn’t it strange that the Farm Bureau seem and Chamber of Commerce seem to have been taken over by the laissez faire Right? The small family farms and small family businesses that predominate both organizations are ill-served by their corporatist positions.

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  34. Mervel says:

    If you hire someone you enter into a new world, a world that is regulated and controlled as it should be.

    So if it does have a family exemption I would have much more sympathy toward this law.

    To me what the law should be doing is protecting migrant farm worker children.

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  35. Jeff says:

    I know a kid who had his head split open when he fell into a barn cleaner, another who lost part of a finger chasing a cat that ran under a running air compressor in the barn- years later she nearly broke her neck from a dirt bike spill. I know a kid who fell between the disks of a harrow (survived ok). His father was a child when a sickle-bar mower nearly amputated his foot as he stood in the hayfield. Another boy lost part of a finger in a farming accident. Another who lost his leg as he stepped over the power take-off shaft. Another farm kid who got a serious chainsaw cut before the age of 14 (no leg protection). I didn’t know a young local girl who was killed by a bull as she brought the cows in at night. (farmers are not liable if their bull gets out!) Most of the incidents above happened while the kids were out of sight of the parents. When I was young a neighbor kid, riding on the blade of his father’s log skidder fell off and had his foot almost amputated. And I haven’t mentioned the time I nearly flipped the tractor.

    I have heard the comment often that work at a young age is good for children and I don’t disagree. I know most of the above situations took place with inadequate supervision. I see the Amish kids out assigned their row to hoe. The youngest not making much progress but they have an assignment.

    Why is a farmer extended different opportunities than other business owners (letting their young children work in dangerous jobs). Why is a farmer afforded the opportunity to not pay for overtime labor? I can’t put my children in a sawmill and must pay overtime to workers. Why is Agriculture such a heritage it needs special protection? Protection of the “family farm” to the point we can tolerate injuries to children? A regular employer would pay triple compensation to an injured under-age worker, plus penalties. Are these subsidies to keep the land tilled so people can drive through the country and reflect– Oh isn’t that quaint?

    In New York: You may not: .
    •Work in construction or in any factory workroom
    •Use most power-driven equipment
    •Use washing, grinding, cutting slicing, pressing or mixing machinery (whether or not it is power-driven)

    And the American…. of Pediatrics recommends no one under 16 on riding mowers.

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  36. sratchy says:

    “And the American…. of Pediatrics recommends no one under 16 on riding mowers.”

    Sheer nonsense.

    The rules need to be reworked and are overly broad.

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  37. jill vaughan says:

    We raised 8 children on a dairy farm. The kids had to work too hard- no doubt about it. But they were with us, they learned competence, confidence, carefulness, and family cohesiveness, No major accidents or injuries- probably less tab if they had participated in sports. Some of the injuries they escaped were: feelings of boredom, worthlessness, much of the peer pressure they would have faced if they hadn’t been as close to the familly. There were horrible times of cold and exhaustion, but also magical times when neighbor kids helped hay, and everyone was amazed by what they cfould accomplish, and how their bodies responded to rest and water. I have apologized to my kids about how much work they had to do, and not one of them says it was not a positive thing. Most kids don’t work; so yes, farm injuries would lead the pack of work-related industries. Allowing children to experience duty, family teamwork and gentleness with animals they are responsible for is a gift.

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  38. tootightmike says:

    This whole hot discussion…and the proposed regulation, are based on some statistics that don’t seem to make sense. Saying that farm work leads to three times more injuries means what? Compared to what other kinds of work?? Teen workers get jobs scooping ice cream, selling movie tickets, and bagging groceries. Obviously farm work will be more dangerous than that, but it’s a lame comparison.
    The next number used in this discussion is that two dozen teens die each year in farm related accidents. This number is so small as to be useless…only a third of the number killed by lightning. By contrast teen drivers account for 5000 deaths per year.
    And the last number used to argue for more regulation is 3800 injuries leading to lost work. How many injuries are suffered by teens playing football or hockey. My reading says 3.5 million teens and children are treated for sports injuries each year.
    I’m not saying that there aren’t dangers…just that numbers taken out of context need some scrutiny, and that these numbers are weak.

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  39. Kathy says:

    Often it seems there are those who wish to create a world insulated from any potential dangers and then go about promoting their cause and getting regulations and/or laws passed.

    Someone here said something about it being about experience and I agree. Our opinions and perspective is hugely formed by our experience and because we feel so passionately about it, well, forums such as this exist .. along with many causes. But, the squeakiest wheel can also get laws passed that are bureaucratic overreach, too.

    Liberals, Conservatives, etc., have to see this and try to think and discuss as objectively as possible.

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  40. Paul says:

    “into situations where they might lose their limbs or their life to one moment of carelessness or ignorance.”

    knuck, I agree, but look at some of the “situations” they want to bar the younger workers from… Assisting in taking care of an injured or sick animal? Please.

    But since this is a government regulation many here just have to agree with it. Big brother knows best, don’t be such a drones.

    As I see it these regulations will actually put larger more mechanized farms at an advantage.

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  41. I know this is something people like to put into a neat, ideological box but I think it’s more nuanced that the typical hand waving, polarized debate is likely to reveal. I think there are two fundamentally situations.

    One is kids working on farms run by their parents or relatives. Another is them working on farms run by other people. The latter is them simply wanting to make some spending money, no different than working a supermarket or amusement park. The former is them wanting (or having to) help out their family with key tasks, like kids mowing their front lawn or vacuuming the rug (and maybe getting an allowance for it).

    I think the tricky part is how does a regulatory body distinguish between these two very different scenarios, because there has to be a certain degree of deference to parental authority. Where that line is, I’m not entirely sure, but I am sure that the ideological polarized shouting typified by some of the comments above isn’t doing anything constructive.

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  42. Paul says:

    The intent here is good. The execution looks poor.

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  43. Brian Mann says:

    Brian – I think it’s important to point out that tens of thousands of these kids in American agriculture aren’t working for spending money in the sense that you describe. They are essentially working to earn a living.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  44. mervel says:

    I think there is a third larger issue and that is the one I would mainly care about; large scale operations that employ migrant farm labor and THEIR families. These families often live on the property for either a part of the year or year around. In this case the pressure may be put on the children of those migrant farmers to work, and to me that is very very different from local kids working on local farms or their families farms.

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  45. mervel says:

    If you are a local teenager and you really need the money you earn on the neighbors farm, how does this bill help you? Is it going to pay you for your lost wages that you really need that you are now denied?

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  46. Paul says:

    “They are essentially working to earn a living. ”

    True, there may not be much use for them on the farms if this goes through as it is written. It looks to me like the idea here is to keep children under 16 away from this type of work. Perhaps that makes sense, it might be easier to just bar them from the farm entirely.

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  47. jill vaughan says:

    as a commenter already said- “parents are very different from other parents”- farms are very different from other farms. But to be intimately acquainted with the pastures, the beaver dams, the stone walls on a hot sunny summer afternoon, aware of the weather and the wildlife builds a stewardship the kids will never lose. to participate in the singing, the discussions, and the arguments on early morning milkings, is to practice the skills of connection and thought with family, in safety, before seeking a larger world. And yes, the kids were with their “flannel shirted dad”- flannel shirts were what came from the hand-me-down bag, and that’s what they all wore. There are drawbacks, it was not all idyllic and bucolic. But it was real, and everyone had to respect each other as a team member, as well as love them as family. It’sa different childhood and adolescence than private lessons and prep classes- which I wish my kids could also have had. However, my kid’s work ethic made it possible for them to shine even though they didn’t have some of those privileges.

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  48. Kathy says:

    Jill, you’ve said it beautifully. My sons went on to Border Patrol, RIT civil engineering graduate, SLU graduate, photographer, and I’m still “at it” since I also homeschool.

    This is the kind of family and society that shined for decades and even centuries before we got “so smart”. The world has changed and we must change with it. But if any of us can hold to some traditional, good old fashioned upbringings – the results still speak, even in a fast-paced, technology driven world.

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  49. Walker says:

    Some of this sounds way too much like “if only everyone was as wonderful as I am, the world would be a much better place” for my taste.

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  50. Paul says:

    Let’s face it how a family farm is run is not going to change because of these kinds of regulations. If there is a breakdown in the “family” than it is because the family has broken down. I don’t think it can be blamed on the government. Maybe you are not trying to do that here but given the context of the discussion you must think there is some connection. Also, you can have a “good old fashioned upbringing” in Manhattan just the same as you can on a farm in the NC. It is about the people not the surrounding.

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