Labor Department takes aim at Family Farms

For many in Arkansas, farming is a family business. Generations join together to cultivate the land and earn an honest living. Many farms are passed from one generation to another and are a tremendous source of pride. Other families scrimp and save to purchase land and pass a legacy onto their children and grandchildren.

Family farm operations in Arkansas and across rural America tell our nation’s story. The family farm represents the success that comes from hard work and never being willing to settle for less than the absolute best. The farms also represent what can be achieved when the entire family joins together through good times and bad.

For some weeks now there have been rumblings from the Department of Labor about new rules that would classify the children of farm families as illegal child laborers. The Department of Labor is considering new rules that would impose heavy fines on farm families if any member of the family under 18 helps with regular chores, feeds livestock, drives a tractor or helps with planting. I have said before that the Obama Administration does not understand rural America, but with these new rules regarding farm families, it appears that President Obama is trying to end family farming as we know it.

Worse than any immediate fines are the long-term impact that the new rules could bring. By stopping young people from helping out on the family farm, the Department of Labor is forcing an end to generations of family farm operations. The new regulations would keep young people from taking up the family business and would force countless families to stop production. The new rules would kill the dreams of young people in Arkansas who want to own their own land and build a successful farming operation.

Many of the challenges we face in Washington are not Democrats versus Republicans, but are rather urban interests versus rural interests. The Labor Department’s planned rule to impose child labor fines on farm families is the most offensive assault on rural Americans to date.

Ask any farmer in Arkansas when he or she first started helping on their family farm and they will tell you age six or seven. Farming is in their blood and it is a way of life. Young people grow up excited to be able to help their parents and grandparents feed the animals, plant crops or maintain the farm equipment. Even young people who choose not to continue farming gain valuable life skills that will make them better teachers, nurses or business owners.

Arkansas farm families do not need a federal agency to tell them when their children can start pitching in on the farm. Parents should decide when their children are ready to start learning life lessons and contributing to the success of family farms.

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