Protect Children From Work-Related Injuries and Deaths

Target: Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture

Goal: Protect children who operate farm machinery in the U.S.

Last year, a three-year-old in Wisconsin was crushed by a loader driven by a five-year-old on a family farm. Last July, a ten-year-old boy clearing brush was run over by a tractor driven by his nine-year-old sister. These incidents are not uncommon in rural America, and result in more than one hundred child and teenager deaths in the United States per year, though the exact number is unknown.

Children born into farm families grow up absorbing agricultural knowledge, hard work, and responsibility so that they can contribute to the family’s livelihood. While the Obama administration attempted to regulate child labor laws in rural America, their efforts were dropped as rural lawmakers and farm groups opposed the proposals. The federal government asserts that children may work at any job at any time at any age on their parents’ farms. Often, these jobs require driving heavy machinery like tractors and skid steers (which feed cows), in addition to milking cows, feeding calves, and clearing brush. The children are an invaluable asset, as most families are under financial strain and need all the labor they can gather without hiring outside help.

Farm safety groups advise that children should be at least fourteen before they drive tractors, and sixteen before they drive skid steers or ATVs, but again, the federal government says outsiders have no say over children working at parents’ farms. Although it is understandable that struggling families need help, they must find a better way to get it besides risking their children’s lives. Sign the petition below to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to issue a recommendation or guidelines to parents to prevent any more tragic deaths.


Dear Secretary Perdue,

Farmwork-related injuries and deaths are all too common in the United States, especially for children and teenagers. Although operating heavy machinery and helping out on the farm are part of life and tradition for many families, it is a fact that there should be better practices in place to prevent incidents and deaths.

Children as young as five are operating machinery meant for adults, and although the Obama administration tried in the past to regulate child labor laws on farms, their efforts were shot down by farm groups and rural lawmakers. As Secretary of Agriculture, you are in a unique position to make change. I urge you to recommend better safety procedures for children operating machinery, and if possible, support proposals that place age restrictions on operating machinery. With your clout and expertise, you can help prevent children’s injuries and deaths across the U.S.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Jill Wellington

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One Comment

  1. GEN AGUSTSSON says:

    kids should be in school not labor! ban child labor now!

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304 Signatures

  • Alina Rionda
  • Freya Harris
  • Rick Easton
  • Izumi Ogawa-Schulz
  • Maaike Van de Pijpekamp
  • Jillana Laufer
  • Frank Kling
  • patricia calebrese
  • Elizabeth Kirby
  • laura odonnell
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