Proposed rule changes by the Labor Department may be bad for farmers, but they are worse for kids.

We never owned a farm when I was growing up, but I knew plenty of people who did. Having the opportunity to do farm work at a young age is one of the single biggest advantages I’ve had in life, second only to being as handsome as ten movie stars.

That was a joke.

First of all, it gave me the opportunity at an early age to learn about working to earn something. Most of the time I was paid by how much work I did, not how many hours I worked. The harder you worked or the more desired skills you possessed, the more you could earn. Example: suckering tobacco doesn’t pay nearly as much as cutting and spiking tobacco. I learned the lesson my first year of working tobacco for a family friend. I showed up the next year anxious to cut.

Secondly, I learned the difference between “working” and “working hard”. I learned this mostly from my Uncle Fred. My dad (he was actually my dad’s uncle) had already told me that this old man could outwork anybody he knew, and he lived up to his reputation the first day he hired me on. Lucky for me the other two guys working with us were grown men with a knack for laziness. I could easily outpace them, so he wasn’t too hard on me. But I did get to hear his opinion of people like them while we were waiting on them to finish their work, and I knew I didn’t want anyone to talk about me that way if I could help it.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Working hard at an early age is good for the body, mind, and soul. If nothing else it can give kids the motivation to make the most of their education so they don’t have to spend their lives doing back-breaking labor. I’m talking about kids 11 and 12 years old and up here, not babies.

Why would anyone want to deny kids the right…yeah, I called it a right…to learn these lessons, earn their own money, and actually get outside and do something productive?

Let me put it on tougher terms–these are the kids you are going to be depending on to go out and hit it hard all day to pay your social security (or whatever sort of safety net exists at that point).

We are getting soft.

This is the part that really gets me:

Furthermore, most 14- and 15-year-old workers would be prevented from operating any tractor, all-terrain vehicle, milking machine, or lawn mower. Now, exemptions exist that allow them to operate such equipment given they complete a 24 hour safety course…

My safety course for driving a tractor consisted of “You know how to work a riding mower don’t you?”. ┬áIt was sort of implied that if I wrecked my Uncle Fred’s tractor and survived, my safety would be in danger.

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