We're all for encouraging safety when children or anyone else is doing potentially hazardous work on the family farm. But we're happy the Obama administration last week dropped its unpopular proposal regulating work done by children younger than 18.
The Labor Department created the list of proposed rules months ago, which immediately created an uproar in farm states and rightfully so.
The Labor Department had modified the proposal to exempt children who worked on farms owned or operated by their parents, although work done on farms operated by neighbors, uncles or grandparents would have falled under the proposed guidelines. But the criticism remained.
Simply put, the plan went too far. Under the proposal, children younger than 16 would have been prevented from using most power-driven farm equipment, including tractors. Children younger than 18 would have been prevented from working in feed lots, grain bins and stockyards. Those are simply unrealistic and unnecessary regulations in an industry that relies heavily on family labor, including teens. There are dangerous activities on farms across the country, but parents and grandparents are a valuable source of guidance when teens are learning the ways of the family farm. We trust family members to teach the next generation of farmers and ranchers proper safety precautions far more than some bureaucrat sitting behind a desk in Washington, D.C., writing edicts.
Had the regulations become reality, they would have been largely unenforceable anyway. If a 16-year-old jumps behind the wheel of a tractor to move a hay bale to feed animals on the family farm, what government official would monitor that activity? It's not possible. But the teen's father, who's already working on the scene, can guide the teen safely through the process, just as his father did for him.
That's the way it should be.