09.28.2012 0

Jon Tester bears responsibility for proposed Labor farm regulations

Photo courtsey of http://tester.senate.govBy Rick Manning — President Ronald Reagan famously said, “Personnel is policy,” and not surprisingly, he was 100 percent right.

That’s why Americans for Limited Government urged Senators Jon Tester to oppose the nomination of Patricia Smith to the office of Solicitor of the Department of Labor.

As the Solicitor Patricia Smith approves every single regulation that goes through the Department.  This makes her one of the most powerful people in D.C. when it comes to labor laws like the one that was proposed that would have greatly restricted the ability of young people to participate in many normal farm activities, threatening the way of life in rural America.

This is important because after months of debate, Tester was the deciding vote in favor of Smith when she survived a Senate filibuster with the bare minimum of 60 votes.  In effect, if Tester had voted against Smith, she would not have been in a position to approve the egregious attack on kids working on farms in our nation’s history.

While the proposal was eventually withdrawn due to the overwhelming objections of the public, and actions by Members of Congress like Representative Denny Rehberg who oversees the Labor Department’s budget in his position in the House of Representatives, it was Jon Tester who put Smith in a position to give her approval to the regulation.

Here is how the American Farm Bureau Federation characterized the threat posed by the Department of Labor proposed regulations signed off on by the Tester supported nominee,

“The DOL proposal:

  • Fundamentally changes how the department interprets the existing parental exemption for family farms;
  • Greatly restricts the ability of youth to work on common farm equipment, such as tractors, and expands the definition of “power driven equipment” to include any equipment operated by any power other than human hand or foot power, including wind, electricity and battery power;
  • Changes and hinders the ability of youth in training and educational programs to gain real-life experience working on farm;
  • Restricts youths’ ability to work with livestock; and
  • Has the potential of limiting, if not prohibiting, youth under the age of 16 working in orchards and fields harvesting fruits and vegetables.”

The Southern Oregon Farm Bureau put the threat even more succinctly when they said,

“Under the proposal, even routine farm chores, such as driving tractors, milking cows, cutting weeds and building or repairing fences would likely be considered illegal unless the farm on which the youth worked was wholly owned by his or her parents.”

And the American Horse Council stated that the Tester approved nominee’s regulation would,

  • “Prohibit employed workers under 18 from working with horses in feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and auctions.
  • Exclude employed workers under 16 from working in a yard, pen or stall occupied by a non-castrated male horse “maintained for breeding purposes;” porcine, bovine, or bison older than six months; or engaging in or assisting in branding, breeding, dehorning, vaccinating, castrating livestock, or treating sick or injured animals including horses.
  • Prohibit workers under 16 from herding livestock from horseback or on a motorized vehicle or on foot in confined spaces such as pens or corrals.  The DOL noted that this provision would apply only to the herding of livestock on horseback, not any other kind of work performed on horseback.”

Radical anti-farming activists have been trying to shut down farms hiring and use of young workers performing normal farm functions for years.  It wasn’t until Jon Tester decided to confirm Patricia Smith to be the chief legal officer at the U.S. Department of Labor that these radicals have succeeded in getting a crazy regulation that would destroy the way of life on America’s farms to the brink of approval.

Tester claims to have rural America at the forefront of his thoughts and concerns as a U.S. Senator.  The problem is that through his votes in favor of Obama nominees like Patricia Smith, he allowed people to have enormous power over the rural way of life, and now there is little he can do about it.

Would Jon Tester actually vote on the Senate floor for this insanity?  Probably not, but when he voted for Patricia Smith who he was warned against, he became accountable for any regulations that she approved.

Like it or not, because personnel is policy, Jon Tester is responsible for the Department of Labor farm child labor regulations proposals, the question remaining is will Montana voters make him pay the price?

Rick Manning is the Communications Director of Americans for Limited Government and the former public affairs chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Labor

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