On ranchers’ big push to end the rule change…

 “Many people were concerned about this but (ranchers) were very exercised. I didn’t keep good statistics but it appeared that the preponderance of really good letters to editors, really good interviews in small hometown newspapers, tended to revolve around livestock.

“I think the reason for that is there were 13 so-called ‘hazardous operations’ listed (by DOL) that youth would have been virtually prohibited from working on. While a number of those involved equipment that cut across all farms, they were harder to understand…

“The ones that really had an impact, ones that were really in your face, were those like no dealing with animals in a way that could cause pain -- dehorning, docking tails, anything like that. The rules would have even prevented the herding of chickens. They would have prevented children from handling any sexually-intact animals over six months in age.

“Those restrictions would have virtually taken youths out of 4-H, FFA and livestock showing and handling. I think that’s why this really raised the hackles of those who own horses, the dairy producers, pork and cattle.

“There was a huge group of organizations — probably 40 or so — that conference-called regularly. We were sharing written comments back-and-forth.

“Probably, the groups that added the most flesh to our comments were up to a dozen state Farm Bureaus. Some of the people from those really understood the issues well and did some very good writing that many of us used. They kept it up throughout.”

Shortly prior to the DOL’s backing down on the new rule, the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) released a study showing a decrease in youth farm accidents. NASS found that “agriculture-related injuries to youth under 20 years of age on United States farms have decreased from 13.5 injuries per 1,000 farms in 2001 to 7.2 injuries per 1,000 farms in 2009. … An injury was defined as any condition occurring on the farm operation resulting in at least four hours of restricted activity or requiring professional medical attention.”

Your reaction to the study? Do you suspect that was the final nail in the proposed rule’s coffin?

“I don’t know that for sure, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

“We’d already seen bits and pieces of those numbers from the ag-safety experts at universities. For example, the injury rate in youth working agriculture had been cut more than half in five years.

“But it was a nice coincidence that study was released (when it was). I can’t say for sure it had an impact (with DOL) but it certainly didn’t hurt.”