Take a walk through the halls of the federal bureaucracy that now occupies Washington, D.C., and you might have a hard time believing that our country was founded by farmers and ranchers. This is especially true in light of a new rule being proposed by the Department of Labor to restrict the ability of farmers and ranchers to hire young people to work in agriculture.
As a fifth-generation Montana rancher and a father of three, it’s clear this so-called “Youth Ag Rule” was not written by anyone who's ever lived or worked on a farm or ranch. There's a reason agricultural groups across Montana and the country oppose these new rules as unnecessary, intrusive, and what's more, insulting. Some Washington bureaucrats may want us to believe the government knows best when it comes to protecting and providing for our kids, but I don't buy it, and neither do America's farmers and ranchers.
Among the problematic provisions proposed by the Department of Labor under the Obama Administration, the rule says:
• No one under the age of 16 would be allowed to work with animals when pain is being inflicted, such as branding, castrating, vaccinating, etc.
• No one under the age of 16 would be allowed to work on a ladder or a scaffold over 6 feet high (current restriction is 20 feet).
• No one under the age of 16 would be allowed to work in a pen with an uncastrated male bovine, porcine, or equine animal over 6 months old.
• Currently, hired workers under the age of 16 are not allowed to operate combines, corn pickers, etc. The proposal would prohibit those under 16 from using all power driven machines to do ag work, including anything operated by “wind, electricity, fossil fuels, batteries, animals or water.”
• No one under 18 would be allowed to work in stockyards, grain elevators, feedlots, livestock exchanges and auctions.
These rules just don't make sense. That’s clear to anyone who’s been on a family farm or ranch. In fact, tens of thousands of family farmers and ranchers voiced their outrage to their elected officials. But this is what happens when big city bureaucrats try to craft policies for rural America. We’re left to try and stop an attack on the family farm by the Department of Labor that's got folks around the country up in arms.
I have taken the lead in the House of Representatives opposing this burdensome regulation. After hearing from a number of Montanans who were worried that the Department of Labor comment period was scheduled in the peak of harvest season, I wrote a letter with 77 of my colleagues to the Secretary of Labor asking for an extension to the comment period.