Children In the Corn

November 30, 2011 at 2:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Nebraskans are up in arms because the Feds are talking about tightening child labor laws on farms. Detasseling in particular would be affected, a job that employs hundreds of sub-16-year-olds every summer. From what I understand, detasseling is a difficult job, but one that pays youngsters relatively well. Considering that it’s very difficult for kids under age 16 to get any job, many youth rely on detasseling for spending money they wouldn’t otherwise have easy access to.

I remember being very excited about detasseling when I was a kid. I couldn’t wait to be old enough and tall enough for the job. I was all set to go ... and then I got a paper route instead. It was probably for the best. Considering how poorly my body deals with heat, detasseling probably would have killed me. (I don’t mean that figuratively.)

I wonder how many of you detasseled when you were younger. What was it like? Was it worth it? Based on your experiences, should regulations be tightened to keep 15, 14, and 13 year-olds out of the fields?

I of course want to protect kids within certain parameters, and in particular I want to protect them from idiot adults. But at the same time I don’t want to take away perfectly good work opportunities. We need to find more opportunities for young teens (and even pre-teens) to work hard and earn some cash, not fewer. I’m not sure what role detasseling plays in that goal of mine, but it appears to my uneducated eye to be an appropriate component.

I want my kids to have job opportunities when they get older. Sooner rather than later, in fact. I’m all for reasonable regulations to protect my kids while they hold those jobs, but if regulations become so stringent as to eliminate opportunities for the kids, they’re doing more harm than good.

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The Comments

Fletch November 30, 2011 at 3:06pm

At that age, I didn’t yet live in Nebraska. Instead of detassling, the big thing for kids that age was to hoe sugar beets. I, too, opted for a paper route. It suited me better and was a year-‘round gig.

CP November 30, 2011 at 3:57pm

Tell me - who will detassle if younger teens are eliminated from the job pool?

I’m opposed to this bill in general, but specifically I’m curious about this question.

Mr. Wilson November 30, 2011 at 4:38pm

The question is less “Who?” and more “At what price?”.

CS November 30, 2011 at 6:05pm

I made about 1000 dollars in three weeks detassling. Quite a bit for an under 15 kid, not so much for an average worker with bills to pay. If the companies want adults out there, they are going to have to pay for it. The flip side, however, might be better season to season retention, more accurate field completion, and less hassle with hormonal teenagers being in the middle of nowhere barely supervised for hours a day.

CS November 30, 2011 at 6:07pm

that was also in the mid 90s. I don’t know what they pay now.

George November 30, 2011 at 8:49pm

Why is everyone assuming that legal aged kids (16 and above) aren’t going to fill the spots? 

I did detasseling when I was 16, and the job sucked.  I wouldn’t allow my 13, 14 or 15 year old to have the job.  I don’t think farmers are really going to have an issue filling the spots.  In this economy with so many unemployed, there are many able bodied adults (and older teens) who would kill for $1,000 for a 3 week work period!

CS November 30, 2011 at 9:07pm

The point is, I think , that the ‘paper route’ of yore is not feasible or even available anymore, and 12-15 year olds have expenses, too. My son is 12 and wants to try archery through school. He got invited to some gifted conference in Wichita that costs around a thousand dollars. My friend’s son is saving for a car when he turns 16. Why remove one of the few jobs that a person under 16 can work, especially when there are hundreds of thousands of kids across the US that already do these types of agricultural jobs every day?

Are they dirty, scary, and sometimes dangerous? Sure. Are they mining coal, or making garments in a third world sweatshop? No. I worked on a farm in Gage County, and a chicken farm, from 13 until I graduated from HS. It was one of the few jobs I had that paid without my having to figure out how to get to Beatrice every day. Much farm labor is manual anyway, they can’t drive a vehicle until they are 15, so really, who is begin hurt here? City people that are scared by the big bad ‘dirty job’, most likely.

George December 1, 2011 at 5:46pm

I guess this is where there may be a difference in opinion.  I don’t see archery as an expense that is shouldered by my child to pay.  That’s my responsibility.  If we don’t have the funds, I get a second job or take out a loan.  My child’s job is to focus on school and the activities that come with it.  They can be an “adult” when they turn 16 (and even then, they won’t be working during the school year).  My husband worked only summers growing up and didn’t turn out to be a deviant or spoiled child with no work ethic.. so I’m going on that biased and narrow analysis to believe that my kids won’t either smile

CS December 1, 2011 at 8:37pm

He’s not paying for all of it,i wasn’t implying that, but if, for example, he wanted a bow to practice at home on his own time, this would be something that I and he feels he should contribute to. Those are expensive, and he knows it.

If he wants to go to this conference he’ll have to help with some of the expenses. I may be projecting my childhood experiences onto him somewhat, but ultimately if it comes down to my paying or him not doing an activity Ill still find a way to swing it-I just expect he and my girls to be conscious of the cost of things, including our monthly utilities/expenses, so that they see how money comes in and leaves. Lack of money management hurt me in college. My parents never talked about money (or the lack thereof) around we kids.

George December 2, 2011 at 5:59am

Different strokes for different folks I guess.  My parents never talked about money and I had pretty good money management (purchased my first home at 21). 

However, going back to the original point of all this.  I find it hard to believe that saying “you can start working at 16 instead of 13” is some how going to hinder a child to learn about money management and responsibility.  We started teaching our children money management ions ago… and in a way that never put them into the position of doing a very mature manual labor job.

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