It's good to be reminded, from time to time, just how important it truly is to have at least a few people in government who know how things actually work in the real world. A potential regulatory change that could be a huge problem for rural America illustrates that point.
The U.S. government has long policed the employment of youngsters. No one seriously disputes the need for rules that guard against the exploitation of children, teenagers and young adults by unscrupulous employers. Recently, however, new regulatory proposals being considered in the U.S. Department of Labor raised the possibility that farm youths might be prevented from performing legitimate work on family farms.
This troublesome development may stem from a lack of understanding of farm life by bureaucrats whose reference point is primarily urban America. Fortunately, however, congressional leaders who understand the dynamics of family farming are moving to prevent appropriate work in that venue by youths from being prohibited.
U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, and U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., have jointly introduced the Preserving Family Farms Act to block foolish regulations being issued by overzealous officials at the Department of Labor.
"The family farm is one of Iowa's most cherished traditions and a cornerstone of our state and nation's economy and cultural history," Latham said in a statement issued by his office on March 8. "The armies of federal bureaucrats who spend day after day drawing up new regulations have now set their sights on the institution of the family farm. It is a misguided idea that threatens the ability of America's youth to contribute to farms owned by their own families. My legislation blocks Washington's regulation monster from yet another intrusion into the operations of our family farms."
Latham's bill would maintain a longtime governmental policy of exempting family farms from child labor rules. It recognizes that by their very nature, these enterprises often involve participation in the assorted work that takes place of virtually every member of the family that owns the farm.
"Family farms depend on contributions from everyone in the family, and often that includes youth," Latham said. "This is an Iowa tradition that goes back generations and one in which I and my brothers proudly participated growing up on our family farm in Franklin County. Everyone agrees that safety is the top priority, especially when children are involved, but I'm fighting to make sure the Department of Labor takes a break from regulation without contemplation of all the ramifications to make them sensitive to the real life needs of family farms to stay in business and keep an American tradition alive and strong."
The Messenger heartily agrees with that sentiment. Reps. Boren and Latham deserve applause for moving aggressively to prevent regulators from making family farming less viable.
This legislation warrants strong support.