Debate Continues Over Kids on Farms

The Labor Department's abandoned effort to restrict kids working on farms is stirring debate about safety. AP Radio's Bryant Thomas explains.

“Agricultural organizations succeeded in convincing the labor department to drop proposals to limit farm work by children. Now they say the government should leave safety to parents, even though children performing farm work are four times more likely to be killed than those employed in all other industries combined. One OSHA expert says that if society says you have to be sixteen to operate a car, I don’t see how you can say its any less sound to say you have to be sixteen to operate farm equipment. Farm accidents involving children are down but not gone.”

With the U.S. House of Representatives scheduled to take up the farm bill Wednesday morning – U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was out drumming up support for the measure – underlining the need for certainty for producers and ranchers alike – saying they need to know what to expect down the road.

“What will the safety net look like over the next five years? What will the research commitment be? Where will we head with conservation and energy? All of that requires the House of Representatives to take action. Chairman Lucas and Colin Peterson, a ranking member, are working together in a bipartisan way to get the bill through their Ag committee.”

And Vilsack's biggest concern is time

“The concern I have is whether Republican leadership will find the time and the will to get it on the floor so it can get voted on before September 30th.”

There’s a possibility there may be no action if Congress spends time readdressing the Obama Health care legislation – and Vilsack says that seems like a lost opportunity for time

“Use your time, mind your priorities and this ought to be a priority for rural leadership in the house and for Republican leadership as well. The Speaker has the power as does the Majority Leader to get this on the floor. They need to do that and not turn their back on rural America at this point in time.”

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

CBS News Correspondent Jim Krasula looks at the increasing role technology plays on America's farms.

“Technology has become the new farm hand for the nation’s growers. They are increasingly using iPads, GPS, and specialized computer programs to help them plant in ways that improve crop production.

‘We are able to take larger pieces of equipment and get over more acres in the same amount of time with a lot less stress.’

“A central Illinois salesman says new tractors can actually drive themselves.”

Heat and drought conditions continue across the Corn Belt. Eighty-nine-percent of top soils in Illinois are dry or very dry and 73-percent of Iowa’s soils are dry or very dry. In the latest USDA Crop Progress report – only 26-percent of Illinois’ corn crop is good to excellent and 52-percent is good to excellent. Nationally – 48-percent of the crop is good-to-excellent – which is lower than normal – according to Wyffels Hybrids Product Development Manager Chris Eichhorn.

Eichhorn says temperatures are expected to be in the 80’s and 90’s – with lower night temperatures. He says that should help – but the big problem is no rain is forecasted…

Eichhorn says pollination and flowering time are very important because up to that point in the growth stage – everything is yield potential…

For this year – Eichhorn reiterates the importance of monitoring throughout the season to maximize the potential of a stressed crop. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.