Family farms could be affected by new Ohio child labor laws

A storm brewing on Capitol Hill means one thing to American farmers: the weather isn't their only worry in the months ahead.
Melissa Topey
Feb 4, 2012


A storm brewing on Capitol Hill means one thing to American farmers: the weather isn’t their only worry in the months ahead.

Local farm families and agricultural industry leaders say they’re concerned about the potential fallout from possible changes to the country’s youth labor laws. 

“I can understand the reasoning — wanting to protect children who should not be doing a man’s job,” said Gerald Oney, owner of a dairy farm in Greenwich. “But the government may be intervening when it might not be necessary. There are plenty of jobs a 14- to 15-year-old can do on the farm.”

In August, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis proposed a new version of labor laws governing the employment of minors at farms.

It’s the first such proposal in more than 40 years. 

Among many things, the plan would prohibit children younger than 16 from performing what the government deems dangerous work on farms, such as driving tractors, handling pesticides and branding cattle.  

Children who work on farms are four times more likely to die on the job than their counterparts in other industries, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The department identified farm tasks that most often result in death or injuries for young employees. The legislative changes aim to prohibit that type of work and limit minors to tasks that don’t jeopardize their health and safety.

Beyond that, however, the changes would have a huge impact on family farms like Oney’s.

The existing legislation provides a “family exemption” that lets farmers’ relatives help out in various capacities. Cousins, in-laws, nieces, nephews and others who are minors have been allowed to work at family farms because of this exemption.

Opponents say Solis’ proposal eliminates this exemption for extended family members, replacing it instead with a “parental exemption” that only lets children of farmers, or their employees, work at the farm. 

The Ohio Farm Bureau is among the agencies fighting Solis’ plan. 

“We support safety regulations, but this rule as written will result (in) a ban on youth employment on farms,” said Spencer Waugh, the Ohio Farm Bureau’s director of legislative relations.

“As written, it will narrow what is currently a family exemption to a parental exemption,” Waugh said. “For example, a teenager or child could not work on their cousin’s land.

“For the first five to 10 years, people are going to be feeling out the impact,” he said. “It could be detrimental.”

Over the years, Oney raised five children, all of whom helped out at his 500-cow dairy farm.

Under his supervision, his children experienced work that ultimately helped them decide if they wanted to become farmers.

Oney continues the tradition to this day with his four grandchildren.

But he says he’s worried the new rules will rob his grandchildren of a chance to learn about farming.

“I’m afraid it may take away learning opportunities,” he said.

Joe and Jody Kapp own a livestock farm on West Toussaint Road in Oak Harbor, as well as a second farm near Curtice, where they grow crops like corn and wheat.

Their family members and friends, including two high schoolers in agricultural programs, often help bale hay and tend to other tasks.

Like many, the Kapps are concerned about Solis’ plan.

Kapp said her family needs all the help it can get during hectic seasons, such as planting and harvesting.

The income from both farms, combined with Kapp’s income as a teacher, is enough to keep the bills paid.   

“We could not reduce our farms,” Kapp said. “We could not support our family. We might lose quite a few family members helping us.”

Congressman Bob Latta is among several legislators opposing Solis’ proposal.

The new labor laws would indeed make it illegal for extended family members to help out on family farms, Latta said.

“This proposal will have negative affects on young people who want to gain practical experience on farms and in agribusiness,” Latta said. “Less than 1 percent of Ohioans earn a living on the farm.

The proposed rules would prevent children from gaining life experience not just at farms, but in 4-H and similar ventures, he said.

“The labor rules proposed from Washington not only stifle the (agricultural) industry, but prevent our nation from building the next generation of family farmers,” Latta said. 


Mime Bloggling

More government intervention where it it not needed. The plan is to do away with the family farm.

2cents's picture
Hmm! Seems like a difficult choice, we get to see kids be productive, learn skills, earn spending money, stay busy, become ready for the real world job market. Or, we can see kids denied the chance to do that, sit around playing computer games, getting in trouble on social network web sites, hanging out doing nothing on street corners, shoplifting and stealing for spare cash, getting involved with the wrong people, getting into drugs, just plain trouble.   Wow, I actually watched it happen to one 15 year old last year when he could not find work because of excessive labor laws. Well, I see some short sited legislation from people who cannot see the entire picture!

Just saying!


It's an election year what do you expect ? Congress needs to look like they are doing something . Makes me laugh .


Another in Oblamas plan to make EVERYBODY dependent on government. We can't have farm kids grow up with any job skills, then they could fend for themselves and their families. Obozo sux.


If you want to see the injustice, look up teenage unemployment rate, then any follow up article about teenage unemployment and minimum wage.

Keep in mind welfare reciepients always vote democratic.


 i totally agree with 2 cents. high school kids have no way anymore to learn to make money anymore to see how important it is. i see to many of my friends who have kids that are 18 and have no desire to work. and now sit around being bums all day. there needs to be lower paying jobs for kids that are 16 years old and a right to work.

The Big Dog's back

 The only thing latta is for is Corporate farms and slave labor.


Puzzled by your comment Big Dog - as Latta is against the bill.

The Big Dog's back

 Steve, he wants cheap labor for Corporate farms.


I had blisters on my fingers from detassling corn when I was 15. I guess I should have sued.


Maybe this is a way of providing more jobs, because more inspectors will be needed to go around and check all the farms


My children all had paper routes starting at the age of 8. They then progressed on to mowing lawns, fast food restaurants, Cedar Point, etc. They all now have jobs making money where they can support themselves and a family. None of them are afraid of work, unlike some of their friends. I cannot see what harm working a farm can do. Farm children are hard workers because that is all they have ever known. I cannot help but wonder where the government thinks the farmer is going to get "cheap" labor. Oh yeah, maybe I do. More entitlements? 


grandmasgirl - I agree wtih you with a few exceptions - paper routes are very dangerous today - people have guns in their homes and almost every block has a sex offender.  And how can we possibly allow a 13 or 14 year old to operate a cutting machine as dangerous as a lawn mower?????  Oh the horrors.  People who work at fast food restaurants are in danger of someone punching them thru the drive thru windows or getting bitten by vicious dogs when handing food out to the driver.  I'm just not sure how those jobs are being allowed in this day and age.  Maybe Ohio shoudl not step in and fix this oversight of the Dept. of Labor.

6079 Smith W

 Our nanny state govt. uses restrictive labor laws in order to prevent adults from finding employment (minimum wage, closed shops, etc.) why should teenagers be exempt from their protection?  


From yesterday's "cheery" employment report:

"The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 5.5 million and accounted for 42.9 percent of the unemployed."

"Among the marginally attached, there were 1.1 million discouraged workers in January, little different from a year earlier."


 "The unemployment rate came down because people found work," - Barack Obama, Feb 3 


After $5 trillion in more debt over four years it's gotta have some effect eh?   




Re: agricultural industry leaders say they’re concerned about the potential fallout from possible changes to the country’s youth labor laws. 

Mega farmers want to work migrant kids, they are not concerned about "family farms".

If we are going to compete with China, all child labor laws need to be scrapped as well as all adult labor laws.

Turn the clock back to the 20's, 30's, 40's........


6079 Smith W

The number one cause of death in OH for those in the 15-24 year old category is road traffic accidents:

When oh when is the State gonna stop this slaughter and ban driving or even riding in vehicles for this age group?



 You know I find some of the jobs they view as harmful to be a joke.  Its becoming more common even for family farms to have tractors and combines that pretty much drive themselves the person driving them just has to keep eyes on making sure things are functioning as they should and little else.  The advancements that have been made to the technology that even the small family farms have access to is work to make the jobs more safe and more effecent with out killing the ability to survive.  Now what the government needs to be looking into when it comesto helping the farmers out is the owners and operators of the shops around the country you know the places that keep the equipment running for the guys out there in the muck and weeds trying to make sure your family can eat.  Alot of the Family Farms run older or second hand machines which means the new kids coming out of school to work on the engines have never seen on that old......  and by old I mean made more than 5 years ago.  The older guys get let go, or forced to resign because of age and the farmers have some young punk (that makes half the money of the other guy, with none of the experience and they still get charged the same price for) that has no clue what the heck they are doing on the machine and tell the farmer you should just buy a new one.   Wait what?   so now we have some kid telling me to spend money on a shiny new machine so hecan do his job, and we have some government suits telling me that I can't have kids that are family working the family farm, you expect me to put out the amount of food needed to export to other countries who charge us an arm and a leg for our imports but you charge them alot to, you don't help us with prices to run things or make ends meet and you want me to now find "cheap" labor elsewhere and not teach this countries kids what working hard means or is?  great this is just what  we need.


As a farmer's daughter (lol)  my siblings and I had to bale straw (nice and easy) hay (itchy and heavy).  My dad would send us out into the fields to pick up rocks that may damage the disk or pick mustard weed ( this just to get us out of the house I'm thinking so he and mom could make whoopee).  They were the best days of my life.  I wasn't a teenager either, I remember our cows getting out and rounding them up and me not more than 4 foot tall but hustling them back to the barn.

So sad, government want to control our sex lives, reproductive choices, driving habits and now how much we work our children.

Just too bad they couldn't see fit to give me a raise for the past 4 years for over 20 years of service but still managed to increase my health care premium.


Once again, the "do-gooders" are busy pretending to do good while what they're really doing is very, very bad.

Why should child labor laws apply in any way, shape, or form to the work your own kids do in their own home? I don't care if they earn their allowance by doing their own laundry, mowing the grass, cleaning the cat's littler box, or helping to milk the cows or bale the hay.

Child safety isn't an issue here. The only people I'm personally aware of who deliberately endanger their own children are on the opposite end of the spectrum. They're the ones teaching their children to do nothing and be nothing via  their own example (the baby left alone while mummy and daddy panhandled downtown is just the latest very public exhibit). Do farm kids ever get hurt? Occasionally. Do city kids ever get hurt? Sure. And these injuries can and do occur both on and off the job. What are you going to prohibit next, eh? Skateboarding (don't want any skinned knees!)? Lemonade stands (bags of ice are heavy)?

Far worse, though, is the fears that this type of regulation can and will kill family farms is right on the mark. I grew up in farm country (though not on a farm myself). All of the kids worked all summer, and often year 'round depending on the kind of farming their famiy did. Even I did some farm work once in awhile. I've helped bale hay and put the bales in the barn. I've collected eggs, and learned to candle them. I've helped butcher and clean chickens. I've picked more vegetables than I'd like to ever, ever be forced to remember. I've driven tractors. Strangely enough, the most serious injury I ever received was a few sore muscles and some itchy spots thanks to the scratches you tend to get working witih hay, and I don't recall anybody else getting anything worse than that. What I do remember is just how much work it was even with everybody lending a hand, and I can tell you right now and with certainty that a farm, even a small one, is not a one-man operation!

The ultimate goal here is to get rid of the small farmer and turn everything over to big ag. You'll have no local, fresh grown foods because everything will be trucked from somewhere else. And don't think you can just create your own garden. Not everybody has the space. Not everybody has the desire. And even if they do have both, the government in some places has already started regulating backyard gardens in private backyards. No, I'm not kidding.

Let's nip this one in the bud while we still can. Or it's just going to escalate like everything else the feds get their nosy, power-grubbing fingers into!

The New World Czar

Amazing, amazing, amazing...our taxpaying dollars go to subsidize over 50% of area kids' school lunches (SR front page Saturday 2-4-2012), and the government is more interested in prying into the lives of responsible people who farm for a living? If this isn't a double whammy, I don't know what is.

2cents's picture
It’s not a new practice, but Americans are getting very tired of big brother sticking it's nose in all the time, you remember that little thing called the American Revolution!   Let’s see, I remember swing sets, see-saws, slides and of course merry-go-rounds on play grounds, my daughter missed those things. Yes you could get hurt, dirty, split lips, get into playground fights but you also learned a lot about physics, velocity, and aerodynamics, if you get too far out on the merry-go-round and you were in flung the dirt. Hell, I had real M-80’s and yes they could take you fingers off if you lit and held one in your hand, Da! We had paddles in the classrooms and if you acted up you got wacked, most of the time you did not act up, not because it would hurt but because you would be embarrassed, then get it again when you went home and had to come in and apologize to the teacher as well. Guess what, we played in the dirt, probable ate a lot too, played army in the fog, jumped off the garage roof and lived. We ate ice out of the milkman’s truck, rode our bikes everywhere and the school bus too. How many cars do you see lined up at schools now days to drop or pick up kids, shish the bus ride in itself was a learning experience. I got punched out for shooting a kid in the eye with a spit wad, no I did not bring a gun to school and massacre everyone, I deserved it.   If you ever rode one of the cruse boats at Geauga Lake, I helped build those; I was (15) and was running a chopper gun spraying up fiberglass parts, hulls, decks. Installing hardware, engines, going home itching like heck so I could earn enough money to buy the parts to build my first car when I turned 16.   Ironically most schools and even Firelands College have eliminated shop and industrial arts, it is sad and I have heard rumors that they are now seeing the ill effects of the lack of hands on experience young people are not getting :(   Well, I could go on forever, bottom line is that we are creating generations of wimps with little practical skill and their future jobs are being exported like the new bridge in San Francisco because skilled labor is going bye bye!   Just saying!
The Big Dog's back

 Everyone likes to relate to their own experiences. In a perfect world that would be great. Unfortunately we live in a world where not every child and parent are responsible. Now imagine someone like goofus or winnie having kids and being a farmer. Just think about that for a minute. And we have all these "do gooders" against abortion and the woman's right to choose. If you think these women aren't good enough to make a decision about their own body, what makes them good enough to know what's good for their child?

Captain Gutz



How many farmers do you know? When is the last time (if ever) you were on a farm?

The Big Dog's back

 putz, at least 30. I was on a farm 2 days ago.

Imagine if big dog owned a farm; his family would starve to death. Easy to see who the lazy- - - is. Hey you probably support 6 hour work days? Don’t worry puppy the government and UN Agenda 21 will think for you. Man you really support any government regulation, do you ever think for yourself; or do just not get out; JHC!? Literally interpreted this could include everything from mowers to weed eater, ladders to hay lofts.
6079 Smith W

Looking forward to the cadre of well benefited and taxpayer financed federal, state and local bureaucrats travelling around in taxpayer funded vehicles (minimum 2 per vehicle) searching for young scofflaws who may be driving a farm tractor or baling hay.

The penalty should be the govt. seizure of the owner's farm and property - that'll show 'em who's boss!

Welcome to the Democratic People's Republic of Obama.

Bless Dear Leader.


What happen, Volt breakdown while touring Amish country? Petting day at the Alpaca barn? I know at least 30.....they must get tired of you loafing a commune listed as a farm?
The Big Dog's back

 Actually there are 2 alpaca farms close by me.

Captain Gutz

So doggie,

It's refreshing to see you comment on a story you might actually know something about, but your "comment" leaves much to be desired, as usual.

Tell me, are you for or against this proposal? Do you beleive the federal Department of Labor should even be involved? Or perhaps the Department of Agriculture should be? Do you think Hilda Solis is qualified to arbitrarily affect millions of people when she is from a place that is the most populous county in the USA and has about as much agriculture as downtown Sandusky?

The Big Dog's back

 I am for it since it doesn't affect immediate family.

Children who work on farms are four times more likely to die on the job than their counterparts in other industries, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.


Most organic farms are family oriented, they have the best tasting meat and produce, Plus it teaches kids at a young age a work ethic (I know a bad word to you tree hugging city types). But while you sit and wait on you government handout each month these kids who want to work have my respect, More respect than those trying to change this law in fact. The government wants a country full of lazy comsumers, The farmers are the last bastion of workers (Actual workers, The ones that realize if your not making enough you have to work harder). Hopefully this law fails, The price of food is going up and with this law and the death of the family farm they are creating food monopolys that can play with the prices.

6079 Smith W

@ gilamonster:

You know dogs, he was probably out running around smellin' other animals butts.'

He seriously needs to be neutered.



Some of the jobs are damned dangerous, wasn't there a teenager killed when he fell into a feed chopper a few years back?  It was west of here. Truth is, farming is right up there  with mining as far as being classified a dangerous occupation. Now before anybody starts crucifying me, what is the matter with better safeguards on some of the equipment? As for the farmersI got nothing but respect for them.  I would not want their job. I just don't see the plan to do away with the family farm.