Woven within the very fabric of America's heartland are family-owned farms where children join parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles in the labors of raising crops and livestock.
It's a way of life ... common, understood, appreciated, even admired.
In a quintessential example of unsolicited, unnecessary government interference, an out-of-touch U.S. Labor Department wants to throw out such accepted rural tradition by restricting the work of youths in agriculture, including on farms owned by their families.
Citing what he called "... 85 pages of unreasonable and overreaching rules ...," U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., last week criticized the Labor Department, which proposes to limit or prohibit minors from participation in a laundry list of activities commonplace on family farms, including the operation of power-driven equipment and the handling of livestock.
"It is clear these regulations were written by people in Washington who have never been on a farm," Thune said Wednesday during a media teleconference.
On Wednesday, Thune introduced in the Senate and U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, introduced in the House the Preserving America's Family Farms Act, which would bar the Labor Department from implementing these new rules.
We urge swift passage of this common-sense piece of legislation by both chambers.
Good grief, family farms and ranches aren't sinister sweat shops operating in the nether reaches of American society, they aren't dark places hidden from view where children are taken advantage of and put at risk in the name of corporate greed and profit.
These are kids helping Mom and Dad, Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle Bob and Aunt Sue make a living for their family, perhaps hoping one day to take over the farm themselves.
For family farms to succeed, everyone in the family must contribute. In large measure, the future of these operations depends on the training the next generation gets by working on them.
We are aware of no great groundswell of national concern about kids working on family farms and see no reason for these proposed rules. In fact, injury and fatality rates among children working on farms is on the decline, according to the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Safety. From 1998 to 2009, the rate of childhood agricultural injuries for children who lived on, visited or were hired to work on farms declined by 59 percent; the rate of childhood injuries among just children who lived on farms declined by 47 percent over the same period.
We, of course, want children to be safe on our family farms, but we will entrust the responsibility for their safety to education and to the adult family members who run these operations, just as our nation has done for generations.