If Barack Obama had been raised on a farm…

UPDATE:  On Thursday, April 26, the U.S. Department of Labor decided to drop the proposed rule discussed below because of the thousands of comments in opposition.

Clearly, our president is not familiar with the everyday lives of many American citizens – particularly those of us from rural America. No one should argue with him or make rude comments simply because he is from Chicago or because he went to Harvard. But by the same token, President Obama should try a little harder to understand us country folk.

His Labor Department is proposing a rule that would ban kids from doing certain types of farm work. Naturally, parts of the rule are good – the safety of farm children has been debated for years, and of course, their safety should be a major priority. But the rule simply goes too far, as many of the Obama administration’s proposals do. For instance, the only exceptions are for children whose parents own or operate the farm. Many other family farms (owned by grandparents, uncles and aunts, etc.) are not excepted. Children and some teenagers are banned even from working at livestock auctions. The rule, as originally proposed, would also take away government approval for safety training taught by well-known organizations like 4-H and replace it with – you guessed it – a course taught by Uncle Sam himself.

And this isn’t the first time our president has gone too far with rural America. You probably remember his infamous speech in which he claimed that small-town Americans from the Midwest get bitter and cling to their guns and religion. In trying to explain his comments, Obama said:

People feel like Washington’s not listening to them, and as a consequence, they find that they can only rely on the traditions and the things that have been important to them for generation after generation. Faith. Family. Traditions like hunting. And they get frustrated.

Now, honestly, as someone who grew up in a small town and on two different ranches (one a small sheep ranch and the other a small horse and cattle ranch), I find it very laughable that Obama accused my neighbors and my family of relying on our “tradition” of hunting and our “tradition” of family and our “tradition” of faith – all because Washington’s not listening. Let’s just say that out here in the country, we would rely on faith, family, and all our other traditions regardless of what Washington does or doesn’t do. Our traditions have nothing to do with politics and never should have been introduced on the scene. But I digress.

Through his Labor Department’s proposed rule, President Obama is demonstrating that he doesn’t fully understand real country values and how we pass them down to our kids. He doesn’t understand what it’s like to grow up on a ranch or to be part of a farm family. He doesn’t have to understand, but he does need to appreciate it and stop trying to change the way we want to raise our children.

Have you ever realized that the main value you learn in the country, on a farm, on a ranch, or in wilds of nature is the value of life? Yep, that’s right. You gaze all around you at the golden wheat fields, alive and ready for the harvest. You see the little lambs, tiny and fuzzy, and you bottle-feed the ones whose mothers died. You keep them alive. You value every person in your family, knowing that each one has a special part to play in running the family farm. The moments you spend together are precious. Trust me: if you grew up on a farm, you see life in a very special way. You recognize its value. You know how to protect it, how to save it. And it kills your heart to see life waste away, die, or worst of all – be needlessly killed.

It’s no surprise that rural Americans are often pro-life. We know that human life is the most valuable of all, but we learned about the value of life from watching the little plants grow as we toddled about in the garden. We learned as we watched the newborn foals struggle to gain their footing and go off dancing in the rain. We learned by actively participating from a young age.

Granted, this proposed rule has nothing to do with abortion, and I’m not trying to stretch and make a connection. What I’m trying to do is say that Americans need to stop allowing the government to mess with our way of life. The government does not know more about teaching farm safety than 4-H. 4-H lives, breathes, and eats country living. This organization knows its stuff, and the government needs to let the experts do what they know best.

If we as Americans continue to let the government dictate to us how we can and cannot raise our children, our children will lose the values we are teaching them, including the value of all life and our duty to protect it. If rural American parents aren’t allowed to let their children be an integral part of their grandparents’ family farms anymore, you can bet that it will be much harder for those children to catch the special vision of life that only us country folk have.

Yes, you can value life equally if you were raised in the city or a suburb. I currently live in a city. There are plenty of pro-life people all around me who’ve barely stepped their little toes in the dirt. But I know that I will always have a special view of the value of life after being raised on my family’s ranches.

On a farm, you struggle to save lives – even damaged and disabled ones. Like Lazarus, the chicken who survived a dog attack, and Waldorf, the turkey who had his wing bit off by a raccoon. On a farm, you see firsthand the pain caused when people care more about their own needs, wants, and conveniences than others’ lives. You pull people out of cars about to catch on fire. You stroke your horse’s head as she’s put down after being hit full-speed by a careless driver. On a farm, you rejoice in the beauty of new and growing life. You call it a wheat field even before you see the first green shoots spring up because you know that whether it’s a tiny seed or a golden stalk, it’s still wheat, it’s still precious, and it’s still needed.

So, President Obama, you probably have good intentions for farm children. Part of your rule definitely takes needed precautions, as we need to protect children everywhere. But you don’t fully understand the way of life in rural America. And based on your track record with abortion and even newborn babies, it looks to me that it would have done you a heap of good to be raised on a farm. Maybe then you would have caught the value of every single life.

  • Detroiter327

    By all means. Please check to see if your pro life representative is also anti-farm.  
    Im posting this because I find many people who are pro life proudly identify themselves as single issue voters. Anyone who strongly identifies with this article should also be checking to see if their rep. is receiving donations from a company that has been attempting to crush family farms world wide. 

    • MoonChild02

      I don’t see anyone from California on there, but thanks for posting that. It’s scary how many people are on there – supporting Monsanto, of all companies – who are said to be “strongly pro-life”. While I don’t recognize most of the names, there are a couple that I do recognize: Speaker Boehner and Senator Blunt. Horrible! Many of those on there seem to be Republicans from rural states, many from the South, who are supposed to be the most pro-life!

      I may be pro-life, but I am not a one-issue voter (hence the reason I’m still listed as a Democrat – though I still hate the two party system). Being that California grows a good portion of the food in the US, I’m glad no one from here actually supports that awful company.

  • Jdjdjeeeeerrrryyy

    On the farm I grew up on we sold all the male baby cows, most of which were butchered. Soo….you’re correct to say it would be a stretch to relate abortion and farm life. We also shot the cows that got too sick. And this is the norm in most dairies.

    • Kristiburtonbrown

      Absolutely correct.  I didn’t relate abortion to farm life.  I said that growing up in the country teaches you the value of life.  (Hence why a large number of rural Americans just happen to be pro-life.)  I’m sure not every farm person learns this, but a whole lot that I know sure did!  And, I also never equated animals with people.  You kinda missed the point.

      • Jdjdjeeeeerrrryyy

        I didn’t miss the point, I think you missed mine. On my dairy I wouldn’t say it was the value of life we learned, but convenience. Its more convenient, and profitable, to sell off a male calf early on instead of raising it with love and care. In addition, it is more profitable to sell off a cow to be butchered if it’s no longer producing a high amount of milk. Lastly, on a dairy one often learns that death isn’t the worst thing out there, as shooting cows that are too sick to survive is seen as mercy. My parents were against abortion in most cases, but not because they owned a farm.

  • Oedipa

    This update to the child labor rules doesn’t prevent children form working on non-family farms, it simply adds to the tasks that the children can’t do: pesticide handling, timber operations, work around manure pits
    and storage bins, and the harvest or curing of tobacco. The livestock auction work you write about was not mentioned in the piece I read (Christian Science Monitor). Since agricultural work accounts for 75 percent of the job-related fatalities for workers under 16 (according to the Labor Department), I’d say this is entirely reasonable.

    I’d much rather be on the side of sensible child labor regulations than, say, Newt Gingrich’s side, where he envisions inner-city kids enriching their lives by being janitors.

    • Kristiburtonbrown

      We can debate the exact regulations until the sun goes down.  And I guarantee you that while “farm people” and “city people” will have different opinions, both will agree that sensible regulations to protect children are necessary.  However, the point is that the Obama administration does not need to step in so far and dictate so much about how parents can and can’t raise their children.  The prohibitions in this rule go too far, and as controlling rules increase, it will becomes more and more difficult for parents to teach their values to their children.  Without a doubt, Obama does not understand and/or does not agree with the pro-life values that many farm families pass down to their children, in part by actively involving the children in the day-to-day tasks around the farm.  

    • Remind me: what’s wrong with kids taking jobs as janitors?

  • Walkers Hill

    Ms. Burton, I just found out about this pro-life movement and the challenges to children working on family farms.  Thank you SO MUCH for your work!!
    One of my best friends is fourth generation famers wife in Washington State.  Four of her children now have Master’s Degrees, one has a PHD from Stanford, and all seven of her children were home schooled, worked on their 3000 acre wheat farm, and were active in leadership with 4H.  Grow them like this on the Obama plantation!!!!As a woman who had an abortion in the year of Roe vs. Wade, I have often wished that an extensive study would be done about the impact of abortion woman’s lives.  If enough information was gathered, the government could not ignore the findings… because I am certain, that most women suffer (to some degree) after making this “choice”.Also, someone should write a book about the 50 million-plus children who have been slaughtered.  Who were they???  Number one they were natural resources for this great country!!!  My child would be 40.  Would my child have been the scientist who discovered a cure for Alzheimer’s, or a politician with brilliant answere’s for our present day economic issues?  Have we killed the next Martin Luther King, Mahat Magandi, or Mother Teresa?  My point is, we will not escape the choices we have made.  (If people have already asked these questions, forgive me).  My child’s life often calls to me, and it is heart breaking; so again, thank you for your work.  

  • Lisajdavie

    I have learned, by being raised in farming country and now raising my children in farming country, that farm children learn many things by participating in the farm work.  They learn the value of hard work.  They learn to be true environmentalists by learning to live with less material stuff and fixing what they do have rather than buying new.  They learn creativity in making those repairs.  They learn responsibility and respect. Not that these lessons are limited to farm life, but this idea of government knowing what’s best is crazy.  Children have been expected to participate in the family responsibilities through all of history, until the last very few generations.  Yes, some of that needs changing, but let’s not swing the pendulum so far the other way now.