It’s easy to forget sometimes, what with the roughly eight billion wars and conflicts our country is involved in all around the world, that when the federal government means to do war, they do war best right here at home.
Case in point: Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and her unbridled effort to obliterate family farms.
Last August, the Department of Labor looked around, scratched its head, and decided the new thing it should focus on was applying child labor laws to agricultural settings. Offhand, you’re thinking, “Well, shouldn’t they be applied?” Well, sure. In a corporate feed lot. What we’re talking about here is the use of children on farms that those children’s families own. Put into practice, these laws will, in the words of a Department of Labor press release, prohibit children under the age of 18 from “being employed in the storing, marketing, and transporting of farm product raw materials.”
Furthermore, the laws would designate a number of farm-related places as completely off limits to children. Dangerous places like country grain elevators. And silos. And… livestock auctions?
Our country isn’t as loaded with family farms as it used to be hundreds of years ago, but such farms do, indeed, still exist, and these child labor laws would do nothing short of hurt them.
According to Secretary of Labor Solis, the reason for this move is simple. “Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America,” she says. “Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department.” It doesn’t take a genius to know that any time the government cites the children as a reason for an action, all of us should be extraordinarily nervous.
So let’s look at what these laws would accomplish, before we determine why.
Off the top of my head (where all great ideas come from), I can think of at least two ways the application of these laws would be detrimental. First off is the fact that any family farm which relies on its children to help pick up the slack, will now be forced to hire outside help, which, like any kind of hiring, is going to cost some money. Many farms barely make enough money to stick around without hiring outside workers; it’s easy to see where adding this expense would be enough to shut those kinds of farms down.
Secondly, this move will cut children off from the family business in an obvious, substantial way. For what would probably be the first time in human history, we would suddenly see a number of children managing to grow up on farms without having any clue whatsoever how they run or how to run them. This isn’t notable just for its absurdity; it’s notable because, without a generation of educated farm kids, we will undoubtedly soon be lacking in educated farm adults.
And that’s the thing. Why, you may ask, would the federal government make such a move, if not, in fact, for the reasons of child safety? It’s because family farms don’t work for our government. Haven’t in a while. And anything that can squeeze such farms out of the picture is A-OK with our dear elected leaders.
The vast majority of “farm fresh” food in this country is neither fresh nor comes from a farm. Most of it comes from corporate-owned lots, where they churn out mass-produced foods of very low—and sometimes even dangerous—quality. Some of this stuff is barely food at all. It’s science experiments. Chemicals. Toxins. The irony of it is, while Solis goes on about child safety, this is the crud we’re feeding our kids.
The companies that produce these “foods” are well known to have ties to various creatures in our federal government. It’s a nice little system for those involved in it. The government squeezes out the family farmers, and their friends in the industry—friends with money—benefit from it. They get to sell cheap food that’s horrible for our health, and because they have less competition on the supermarket shelves, most of America remains none the wiser.
And, of course, there’s something larger in play here, too. That’s the simple fact that family farming is a little too independent for Washington’s tastes. If you’re not a large corporation in this country, the people in charge don’t want you. Larger is better. It consolidates things. Puts all the power in the hands of the few. If too many family farms or other small businesses are allowed to grow and thrive, people will start getting bad ideas about being free and being able to succeed in life on their own. This doesn’t work for the people in Washington, where whole careers and power structures depend on America thinking it needs help.
It would be disingenuous for me to sit here and tell you that every family farm in America pumps out quality food, and that no kid has ever been hurt on such a farm. I don’t know that. I haven’t been to every farm in America. But I do know this move by the Department of Labor has nothing to do with any of that. It’s all just a part of the greater effort to squeeze out the small and independent in favor of the large and well connected.
Jonathan David Morris is the author of Versus Nurture, available now for Kindle and Nook, as well as in paperback. Send him mail at email@example.com.