Family Owned Farms Threatened by Proposed Child Labor Laws

By: Bergen Baucom Email
By: Bergen Baucom Email

Agriculture is a key industry in the Panhandle area. But, the Department of Labor's attempt to to change parts of the child labor law could threaten the future of family owned farms.

Generation's of farmers have learned how to work the field by learning it as a child. But, if the Department of Labor's proposed changes occur, no person under the age of 16 would be allowed to operate machinery or handle most livestock. Machinery could be mean anything from riding a tractor to using a weed-eater.

This was in response to recent farming accidents that claimed the lives of several teenagers. And as imagined, this news was not popular down on the farm.

"I've been working on the farm since I could walk" said David Defelix, owner and operator of Felix Farms. "I started operating tractors and machinery since I was ten. It's not something you just walk out of a classroom and decide to do" he said.

Farmers said they were using their kids on the farm just for free labor. They said the future of family farms depended on their kids learning how to be farmers. They also said that in many cases it's safer than hiring an adult to do the job.

"I would trust child that's been trained responsibly over an inexperienced adult... Without training farmers young to come up and take over the business, who's gonna grow our food in the future" Defelix asked.

As of Thursday, the Labor Department held hearings on the matter and is said to release the new regulations in June. If approved, the plan would also revoke Government approval of safety training and certification courses for young people offered through organizations such as Future Farmers of America and the 4H club.

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