Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I share the genuine concern expressed by the Senator from South Dakota. Farmers have so many things to concern themselves with in the ability to earn a living. The weather is not always their friend. Is this the right crop to grow? What are market conditions going to be? How do we predict? How do we have risk management? And always concerned about what the Federal Government, through its regulatory agencies and departments, is going to do, to create one more impediment toward the success of farms and ranches across our Nation, to always be worried about the issues related to the Environmental Protection Agency. And now comes the Department of Labor with a proposed set of rules that will fundamentally alter the nature of farming and ranching.
The Senator from South Dakota said it well when he said that inherently agriculture, farming and ranching, is a family operation, and that is certainly the way it is across the State of Kansas and across the rural portions of America today. I have always been an advocate for the success of farmers and ranchers during my time as a Member of the House of Representatives and now in the Senate. Certainly part of that is the economic viability of that is agriculture determines the ability for communities across my State to survive and to prosper and to bring another generation of young people back to rural communities, back to the rural part of America. But there is also something very special about agriculture. It is the way that historically in our Nation, in the history of our country, we have been able to transmit our character, our values, our integrity from one generation to the next. It is one of the few professions left in which sons and daughters work side by side with moms and dads, with grandparents, and have that opportunity on an ongoing daily basis to work, to learn something about what is important in life, about personal responsibility, and that you cannot plan your day based upon your own preferences; there are cattle to be fed; there are crops to be harvested; that there is something more important in life than just what you want to do.
Again, this is the way we live our lives. In the process of living this kind of life, we pass on things that are so important to the character of the individual, and over the history of our Nation, the character of who we are as Americans has been molded by the fact that agriculture, farmers and ranchers, have played such an important component in the way Americans have lived their lives.
The Department of Labor announced a few days ago that they are going to repropose a portion of the rule and that they are hoping Americans, farmers and ranchers, Members of Congress look the other way, that they are doing something significant to change the onerous nature of the rules that are proposed. While they have agreed to repropose a portion of the rule related to the definition of family farms, there remain are two significant components important to the way we live our lives--that we pass on to the next generation those inherent characteristics that we desire so much and that we will lose the opportunity to entice a young person to decide agriculture is their means of earning a living as they grow older.
You have to have experience as a child to learn what opportunities are available for you. Students who become teachers have been enthused about becoming a teacher because of an experience in a classroom. Well, it works the same way on a farm in Kansas or South Dakota or in Arkansas. It is the experience that child has, that young person has in working with their families, with neighboring farmers that causes them to think: When I grow up, I want to work on this family farm. I want to earn my living in agriculture.
While a portion of the rule is being reproposed, don't take your eye off the consequences of the remainder of the rule, even if we get a good definition of a family farm in the reproposed rule. What remains is replacing the things that have a time-honored tradition and success in rural communities, in agriculture, in educating our kids--FFA, 4 H, county extension; those things are being replaced and the Department of Labor is going to become the decider of whether a young person has the capabilities to work on a family farm.
The Department says that those things, FFA, 4 H, and county extension, are too local and that we have to have a nationally driven policy from the Department of Labor to decide how we educate and train and make certain we have safety for young people working on farms.
The other part of the proposed rule that remains, that is not involved in any new modification and is working its way through the process--and we expect the Department of Labor to announce in a few months their final rule--is the definition of farming practices that even if the Department of Labor determines that this young person has the right safety credentials to work on the farm, these things are still prohibited--things such as working 6 feet off the ground. Six feet off the ground is where you are when you are on a tractor or when you are on a combine. So what the Department of Labor is doing is taking away a whole segment of the things that are important to young people on the farm. You cannot work with a wheelbarrow and a shovel to clean out a stall, you cannot herd cattle.
In fact, the proposed regulation says you cannot do anything in animal husbandry that inflicts pain upon the animal. Those are things that are pretty important, such as branding and breeding and dehorning and vaccinating. Certainly young people across Kansas and South Dakota have the opportunity to do those things today and take them away, and it diminishes the opportunities that are important to them in earning a living and saving money for their future, but also takes away those other invaluable characteristics of working side by side with farmers who know the real meaning of life, with moms and dads, grandparents, and neighbors.
I very much appreciate the Senator from South Dakota and the sentiments he expressed.
Just another example to show the overreach of these regulations, one of the proposals by the Department of Labor has sought comments on whether we should limit the exposure of direct sunlight if the temperature reaches a certain limit once you factor in wind velocity and humidity.
How is a farmer going to make a decision under those circumstances--whether or not this young person could work on the farm based upon daylight, humidity, temperature? We are going to have to hire a meteorologist to make a determination whether that day it is OK for a 15-year-old to be working on the farm.
I have invited the Secretary of Labor to come to Kansas to experience farm life. That invitation was not accepted. I don't begrudge the Secretary of that. It is not expected necessarily that the Secretary of Labor would come to my State and visit with farmers, although we would love to tell her the story.
We had asked for an opportunity to have a conversation with the Secretary of Labor here in Washington, DC. I was happy to go to her office. That also was denied.
As the Senator from South Dakota indicates, a letter from 30 Members of the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats--it wasn't a partisan issue. Senator Nelson of Nebraska was my colleague in asking the Department to extend the comment period so that farmers, during fall harvest, would have a greater opportunity to comment on this rule. It was a bipartisan letter asking for certain information. We learned again this week that the Department of Labor says that letter from 30 Senators--I don't mean this in an arrogant way, but we represent constituents who have serious concerns with a regulation that we believe will fundamentally alter the way we live our lives in agriculture--the answer was, we are going to treat that just like any other letter, which means we are going to send a form letter really telling, I would guess, not much of anything and certainly not answering our questions.
We have asked folks across the country to take a look at the Web site keepfamiliesfarming.com, and we are soliciting comments from folks across [Page: S897] the country so we can try to submit these to the Department of Labor and make the case known. We would ask the American people, particularly those who understand the importance of this issue, to rise and express their concern and tell the Secretary of Labor, tell the Department of Labor the tremendous consequences of a regulation that changes something that is so important to the character of rural America and the character of our country nationwide.
I appreciate the opportunity to have a conversation with the Senator from South Dakota and would be glad to yield to him.