Thursday, April 26, 2012

Your government doesn't want your kids to learn farming

Farming is the one industry nobody wants to kill off, and yet, somehow, government regulation seems to be doing just that.  It's bad enough that the EPA has decided that dust is a "pollutant" to be limited, and farmers who produce more than a set number of days of flying dust will be fined out of existence.  It's bad enough that the paperwork in order to legally hire help is so byzantine as to have forced many farmers out of the business of working the land their great-grandfathers originally cleared. 

Now, to add insult to injury, it has come to the attention of many on the internet that, last year, another of our federal government's non-elected agencies, the Department of Labor, announced it was planning to "update its child labor policies," especially as applies to agricultural and related industries.  In other words, they're looking to change the rules about having kids do any work on farms.  

In their press release, they stated, "The proposed regulations would not apply to children working on farms owned by their parents." 

Well, whoop-de-do.  It never occurred to these bureaucrats that, among other things, when we talk about family farms, we don't always mean "owned and operated exclusively by Mom & Pop & Sonny-makes-three."  Sometimes, family farms involve multiple generations, including aunts and uncles and cousins all working on each other's patches of ground (yeah, we actually do come across non-dysfucntional families, from time to time).  Sometimes (more often than we'd like), farming involves friends and their families pitching in when there's a crisis.  And, sometimes, farmers open up space in their barns, sheds, and fields for kids to learn about the process of becoming a provider to the world, by process of housing 4-H projects, rural schools' agricultural education programs, or other, similar arrangements.  This "backwards" industry yields a lot of good Samaritans.

Also, occasionally, farmers will offer to trade, as one person suggests, riding lessons for having a kid load hay or muck out stalls.  Some have traded eggs and roaster chickens for similar clean-up work in the (small, non-industrial) henhouses.  I know one who offered to teach a friend's kids how to drive a tractor... for the fun of it.  Plus, he got a little time to kick back and enjoy the scenery -- and the company -- while a few furrows were plowed.  

Barter has long been a practical means of doing business, especially in rural settings.  It often stays off the books, but the whole cash-free subculture is a part of what drives us, these days, out here in the economically-hurting sticks.  

And, actual, hands-on experience is the best education as to where food comes from and how it gets here.  

But then, I suspect that's the real problem the federal government has with kids working on farms.  They can't put a dollar value on it and tax it to high heaven, the influential labor unions with politicians in their pockets can't force farmers' families to pay union dues, and the teachers' unions, equally politically-connected, can't get their hands on this field training and bend it to their own narrow causes.  Therefore, they'll simply regulate it to death, instead, micromanaging us all into starvation.  

It's all about control.  

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