Opinion: The World Is Upside Down

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Every so often, I come across a story that is so far beyond the pall, that my reaction is the world must be upside down. This happened to me recently when I read a news item posted on GrowingProduce.com.

The story related a situation in California where a small family farm was penalized because of labor regulations from the state and federal government. The regulations require that small farms adhere to the same labor rules as large and mid-sized operations. In this case, the owner is exempt, but everyone else (spouse and children included) are subject to the regulations. The farmer must have a workers’ compensation policy for the farm to cover the workers. The grower also must have an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) and Heat Illness Prevention Procedures (both written documents) as well as training records of the employees.

Is Our Ability To Reason Gone?

On the face of it, these regulations seem reasonable enough. After all, they are meant to protect people. But, what happens when they are put into practice by a big, fat bureaucracy? Something like this. A California strawberry farmer who speaks very little English was cited $2,000 by Labor Standards Enforcement for not having workers’ compensation insurance for his wife and uncle (his only two helpers) who work on their half-acre strawberry patch next to their home in Visalia and only sell the berries from their roadside stand. He also was fined $195 for not having a documented IIPP and $260 for no documented heat illness records.
There was a time when “family farm” meant something. When I was a kid, I was given some rather hard jobs like hoeing weeds, loading hay, and picking melons. I was taught from the beginning, its not so much about the money you make, it is about learning work ethic. I suppose in today’s environment my parents and employer would have been hauled off to jail.
 
We’ve allowed federal and state bureaucracies to grow to a point where reason and logic no longer rule. The bad news is bureaucracies don’t shrink on their own. Just think of what’s coming at us with health care reform, an EPA gone wild, and more labor and food safety laws. Only strong leaders shrink government. Unfortunately, we have a huge deficiency in that area right now.

Keep On Commenting

Our readers had plenty to say about the strawberry farmer’s story on GrowingProduce.com. One reader noted: “Very poor discretionary judgement by regulators, it seems to me at first glance. I wonder what is the goal here, to get people to comply or to throttle them? This seems so out of proportion.” You can comment on this story and others on our site. We want to hear what you have to say.
Giles is editor of Florida Grower, a Meister Media Worldwide publication.

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