Shutting Youth Out of Agriculture

Who needs an alarm when you have a mom hollering from down the hall at 5:30 in the morning to get your butt out of bed?  That’s what I had growing up in rural western Kentucky.  At 5:30 every morning cows, horses and chickens had to be fed before school.  Farming and ranching is a full time job because the animals don’t take vacation mom and dad would say.  This routine was just everyday life for me and my little brother.  Of course as any reluctant kid or teenager, some days were a struggle to get out of bed.  Lesson learned: Responsibility.

An extension agent friend recently pointed out some proposed changes to federal laws form the Department of Labor, limiting what
agricultural activities that youth under 18 and 16 can participate in.  After digging deeper I found that theseactivities are very broad and almost eliminate the ability for youth under 16 to work in most aspects of agriculture including but not limited to livestock facilities and grain operations.  These proposed changes will greatly hinder the family farm as we know it.

Understanding that many of the changes are based on farm related injuries to youth, many of these proposed changes will virtually eliminate youth involvement on family farming operations.  Farm safety is VERY important and should never be overlooked however, should we allow those individuals working for the Dept of Labor who have been displaced from agriculture make the decisions on what is safe or dangerous.  There are many aspects of agriculture that these individuals don’t understand.

Below I have pointed out just a few of the proposed changes that are being implemented.

3 proposed changes related to handling large livestock:

“1. Any activity with an intact (not castrated) male equine, porcine, or bovine older than six months should be prohibited.

2. 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 should also be precluded from handling animals with known dangerous behaviors.

3. Hired youth should be prohibited from herding animals on horseback.  The National Farm Medicine Center noted that past and recent data indicate a significant number of animal-related injuries occur to youth when they are involved in the activities cited in its second recommendation. It also reports that ‘‘[h]orseback herding requires a person to monitor and anticipate the behaviors of two (large) animals simultaneously. No youth development data exists to suggest youth younger than 16 years have the cognitive ability to handle this responsibility.’’ A study of worker’s compensation data concerning livestock-handling injuries in Colorado found that        ‘‘[R]iding horseback, sorting/penning cattle and livestock handling equipment represented higher proportions of livestock-handling injuries among cattle/livestock raisers and cattle dealers’’” Pg 24 The following changes are aimed at youth under the age of 18 and would prohibit them from working in many places that rural youth currently have summer jobs.

“The NIOSH Report recommends that the Department establish a new nonagricultural HO prohibiting the employment of youth under 18 years of age in the farm-product raw materials wholesale trade industry….Work in this industry presents a wide range of hazards, including grain entrapments, rail and vehicle accidents, and contact with large animals….. Grain and Field Beans, covers establishments primarily engaged in the buying and/or marketing of grain (such as corn, wheat, oats, barley, and unpolished rice); dry beans; soy beans, and other inedible beans. Also included in SIC 5153 are country grain elevators primarily engaged in buying or receiving grain from farmers, as well as terminal elevators and other merchants marketing grain. SIC 5154,…Livestock, covers establishments primarily engaged in buying and/or marketing cattle, hogs, sheep, and goats. Also included in SIC 5154 are establishments that operate livestock auction markets”

To read the proposed changes in their entirety click here.

I urge everyone to take part in submitting comments on this matter.  The link below will direct you to the site to make this possible.!submitComment;D=WHD-2011-0001-0001


Working on a farm or ranch does pose its risks, but those risks aren’t limited to age.  Farm safety should never be taken lightly.  But
should the government be the ones to say what we can or can’t do on the farm or ranch?  What are your thoughts?

2 thoughts on “Shutting Youth Out of Agriculture

  1. I like you I have two very active kids on the farm. They both own their Angus Cattle and work with everyday. They want the animal they must care for them including in time of sickness. My 13 year old daughter is confident and strong enough to caretake for her animals including preg. check, breeding, and calving. Telling the kids they can not haul manure is crazy. We are building responsible individuals that will become hard working adults. As I interact with their classmates, I get quite frustrated at the level of laziness. Our kids need to get active and this will put the in bubble. I hope everyone fills the comment section on these proposed changes. Thank you for speaking out!

  2. As my two sons can tell you livestock responsibility has been taught to them from a very young age. Along with teaching how to handle and care for livestock comes the responsibility of teaching safety at the same time. These are family farms and should not be governed by the Department of Labor

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