Erin Bush felt so strongly about the proposed changes in rules that would affect what youth under the age of 18 can and can't do on a farm or ag operation that she requested time at her chapter's fall awards program recently to talk about the subject. The advisors, realizing that it is an important issue, granted her the time.
Bush, a junior and an officer in the Franklin FFA, believes youth are capable of operating tractors and handling other situations even if they are not yet 18 years old. Yet if the Department of Labor finalizes rule changes as proposed, that would no longer be allowed, notes Megan Ritter, national policy specialist for Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc.
The ruling could affect vocational agriculture and FFA programs especially hard, Ritter notes. Currently, the National FFA recognizes 47 proficiency areas that students can earn recognition for, based on the work they do and the records they keep in their Supervised Agricultural Experience program. These programs have started many young people toward careers in farming, raising livestock and,more importantly, working for another farmer or some other ag business.
The catch is that to succeed in the proficiency judging process, and even to earn the Chapter and state degree in FFA, students have to either earn a certain amount of money or complete so many hours of work in their chosen SAE project. Typically, they begin the project as a freshman, and continue to build upon it during their high school career. They keep records on how much they earn and/or how much time they invest in the project each year. To be successful, most of these projects are started when the student is a freshman in high school. Most freshmen are 14 years of age.
"Many FFA advisers are very concerned about what this proposal might do to their programs and efforts to teach kids how to develop SAE programs," Ritter says. "It could become a major issue."
The rules also apply to working with livestock. However, if the student owns their own animal, 4-H projects should not be an issue under the current rules as proposed, Ritter notes. However, the language is not clear cut tot eh point that it addresses all situations that could arise, such as cases where a 4-H member leased an animal to show, or keeps their animals at another person's farm.To comment on this law, go quickly to: www.regualtions.gov. . Or find information about the law and how to comment at: www.infarmbureau.org.