Obama Vs. The Family Farm

So ev’ry mornin’ ‘fore I went to school…I fed the chickens and I chopped wood too.

Patches, as performed by Clarence Carter

If Patches was trying to help his mother by working on the family farm nowadays, he wouldn’t stand a chance.

The Department of Labor is poised to put the finishing touches on a rule that would apply child-labor laws to children working on family farms, prohibiting them from performing a list of jobs on their own families’ land.

Under the rules, children under 18 could no longer work “in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials.”

“Prohibited places of employment,” a Department press release read, “would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.”

The new regulations, first proposed August 31 by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, would also revoke the government’s approval of safety training and certification taught by independent groups like 4-H and FFA, replacing them instead with a 90-hour federal government training course.

Rossie Blinson, a 21-year-old college student from Buis Creek, N.C., told The Daily Caller that the federal government’s plan will do far more harm than good.

“The main concern I have is that it would prevent kids from doing 4-H and FFA projects if they’re not at their parents’ house,” said Blinson.

“I started showing sheep when I was four years old. I started with cattle around 8. It’s been very important. I learned a lot of responsibility being a farm kid.”

In Kansas, Cherokee County Farm Bureau president Jeff Clark was out in the field — literally on a tractor — when TheDC reached him. He said if Solis’s regulations are implemented, farming families’ labor losses from their children will only be part of the problem.

“What would be more of a blow,” he said, “is not teaching our kids the values of working on a farm.”

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average age of the American farmer is now over 50.

“Losing that work-ethic — it’s so hard to pick this up later in life,” Clark said. “There’s other ways to learn how to farm, but it’s so hard. You can learn so much more working on the farm when you’re 12, 13, 14 years old.”

Why are family farms so important, anyway?

Sustainabletable.org answers that question in no uncertain terms:

In addition to producing fresh, nutritious, high-quality foods, small family farms provide a wealth of benefits for their local communities and regions.

Perhaps most importantly, family farmers serve as responsible stewards of the land. Unlike industrial agriculture operations, which pollute communities with chemical pesticides, noxious fumes and excess manure, small family farmers live on or near their farms and strive to preserve the surrounding environment for future generations. Since these farmers have a vested interest in their communities, they are more likely to use sustainable farming techniques to protect natural resources and human health.

The existence of family farms also guarantees the preservation of green space within the community. Unfortunately, once a family farm is forced out of business, the farmland is often sold for development, and the quality land and soil for farming are lost.

Independent family farms also play a vital role in rural economies. In addition to providing jobs to local people, family farmers also help support small businesses by purchasing goods and services within their communities. Meanwhile, industrial agriculture operations employ as few workers as possible and typically purchase supplies, equipment, and building materials from outside the local community. Rural areas are then left with high rates of unemployment and very little opportunity for economic growth.

Finally, family farmers benefit society by boosting democratic values in their communities through active civic participation,v and by helping to preserve an essential connection between consumers, their food, and the land upon which this food is produced.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently spoke to students at Kansas State University. He talked about…what else? the importance of agriculture:

Agriculture is a job creator and responsible for 10 percent of American exports. That amounts to $137 billion of agricultural products America traded all over the world last year, Vilsack said. For 50 consecutive years we’ve had a trade surplus of agriculture and last year we had a record $37 billion surplus. To put that in context, he added, for every $1 billion in agricultural export sales, there are 8,400 jobs created here at home, Vilsack said.

“As we look at how we rebuild and reshape our middle class in this country, the formula is pretty clear,” he said. “Yes, we’ll be a government that spends less but we need to be a government that continues to invest in education and research.” If we want to create wealth in America, we need creative and innovative solutions, and that innovation will appeal to the rest of the world.

“We invested in the debt-ridden days of the 80s,” Vilsack said. It was a tough time, but we didn’t give up in rural America, he added. Instead farmers reduced debt, invested in new technology, expanded their capacity, and began to meet our needs and at the same time meet the needs of expanding export markets.

“Bottom line, for the first time in the history of our country we had more than $1 billion in net farm income last year,” Vilsack said. But that income didn’t just stop at the farm level, it flows to the storage and transportation sectors, the processing and packaging sectors and the retail and consumer sectors of our economy, he added. Agriculture is responsible for 1 out of every 12 jobs in America, and as we expand our productivity and figure out new ways to use agricultural products, whole new industries will crop up to support agriculture, he said. From sophisticated farm equipment that uses precision instruments to improve efficiencies on the farm, to diversified renewable energy sources that help our country become energy self-sufficient.

The opportunity for our economy to become bio-based is extraordinary, Vilsack said. With 3,100 companies today that are producing something from plant-based, residue-based, livestock-based feedstocks, agriculture is letting us move from a petroleum-based manufacturing economy, he said. And that creates jobs and wealth here.

Vilsack has basically been a shill for Monsanto and other “Big Agriculture” stalwarts, as well as being instrumental in the disastrous “let’s burn our food for fuel” ethanol policy disaster.

Does his devotion to “Big Agriculture” have something to do with this ignorant proposal from the Department of Labor, attacking family farms?

Y’know…I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.

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