Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) withdrew a highly controversial proposed regulation limiting work that could be performed by young people on U.S. farms. While it is a victory for U.S. farmers, and other agriculture advocates, it is urgent that their efforts continue.
The withdrawal came as a result of strong opposition to the rule voiced collectively by the agriculture community, including thousands of farmers and ranchers.
The rule would have prevented many young people from working in agriculture and could have meant a bleak future for U.S. farmers. Their victory is a reminder of what can be achieved when groups are united by a common goal.
The DOL official announcement even said the child labor regulation “will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.” Unfortunately, it did not say that pulling this misguided proposal represented a new attitude adopted by Washington, D.C.
Hopefully, other regulation-minded bureaucrats will take a cue from the DOL announcement and think twice about proposing legislation that jeopardizes the future of U.S. food production. While it seems ironic, farmers must constantly be on guard to protect their livelihoods which we depend on for our food.
Ill-advised regulations are not the only threat to farming. The withdrawal of the proposed child labor rule doesn’t mean agriculture’s detractors will abandon their misguided notions. Groups such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have set their sights on eliminating animal agriculture in favor of a vegetarian diet. Other groups mask their anti-agriculture agenda by backing increased regulation intended to limit agricultural productivity.
Confronting consumers’ changing attitudes about farming is a daily challenge for farmers. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) is a coalition of some 70 agricultural organizations whose purpose is to help initiate conversations with consumers about modern agricultural production. The group is ideally positioned to continue the momentum gained by the withdrawal of the child labor regulations. And they need help.
There is no doubt that consumers want to know more about the food they buy and farmers and ranchers are needed to provide the answers. After all, no one is more qualified to speak to consumers about modern food production systems. Now is the perfect time to raise your voice.
Farmers and ranchers can carry the momentum forward by simply starting a conversation at a community function, a meeting, or at the supermarket. An informative and reassuring voice that addresses concerns among consumers is the most effective way in getting farmers’ message to the public.