Recent Op-Eds

A recent Gallup poll found that 85 percent of small businesses in this country are not hiring and when asked why, nearly half of those businesses said it was due to the president’s signature health care law and concern over new government regulations.

I believe there is no better example of the federal government’s relentless attempts to implement overreaching and excessive regulations than the new rules proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) that would severely restrict young people’s involvement in farming and ranching. In 85 pages of unsolicited proposed regulations, the DOL is intending to restrict our farm families, 4-H, and FFA from teaching young people about farming and ranching.

Some of the most troubling limitations include: certain workers under the age of 16 years old would not be able to take part in activities such as branding and vaccinating; certain workers under the age of 16 years old would not be able to work on a ladder or a scaffold over 6 feet high (current restriction is 20 feet); certain workers under the age of 16 years old could not work as combine operators and corn pickers or be allowed to use power-driven machines to do agriculture work, including anything operated by wind, electricity, fossil fuels, batteries, animals, or water; and no one under 18 years old would be allowed to work in stockyards, grain elevators, feedlots, livestock exchanges, or auctions.

In South Dakota and throughout America, young people have contributed to family farms for generations and in many cases, they end up taking over the family business, which is even more critical today as the average age of the American farmer is nearly 60 years of age.

In an effort to stop these ill-conceived regulations, I, along with 29 U.S. Senators sent a letter in December of last year asking the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, to withdraw these absurd regulations. Remarkably, none of us received a response, despite multiple attempts to follow up with the DOL. Despite never receiving a response from the DOL, we recently received information that the DOL will be slightly modifying its proposed rules after hearing the outcry of opposition from members of Congress, nearly every major farm organization, and individual farmers and ranchers. However, the scope and intrusion of these rules are so egregious that a simple modification to the rules is not sufficient and they need to be scrapped once and for all.

The Labor Department’s proposed farming and ranching rules are yet another example of excessive and overreaching rules set forth by this administration on our small businesses and job creators. Not only will these rules prevent our youth from participating in family-oriented activities that produce life-long memories and train them for future farming careers, they will, for many agricultural operations, keep our farmers and ranchers from being able to hire adequate help when it is most needed.

I was able to voice my deep concern over these rules to the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on February 15th. I will continue to press Secretary Vilsack and Secretary Solis to apply common sense and withdraw these proposed rules.