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Child labor: Farming parents defend putting children to work

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"I have not seen any youth working in other industries that are at higher risk," Mr. Myers said. "(Farming) may be an accepted risk for the parent, but the question is to put that risk on the child. That's the question that's not being adequately addressed.

"If society says you have to be 16 to operate a car, I don't see how you can say it's any less sound advice that you have to be 16 to operate farm equipment," he added. "I suspect this will not be addressed again, and I suspect we will continue to have youths dying on farms each year in situations that were perfectly preventable."

The lack of action also troubles Cheryl Monen, who lives in the small northwestern Iowa community of Lester.

Had such child labor rules been in place a year ago, her 17-year-old son might still be alive.

Jordan Monen was into his second summer working on a cattle farm in July 2011 when he climbed into the bucket of a payloader and was hoisted up to fix the top railing on a cattle shed's sliding door. The machine lunged forward and smashed the teen's face between the railing and the back of the bucket. He then hit a cement feed trough as he tumbled to the ground.

The boy was taken to a hospital, where he was declared dead of severe head trauma.

A year later, his mother remains haunted about her decision to let her son take the job.

"I feel so guilty about it now. I just had not put it together how terribly dangerous it was and the risks he was in," Ms. Monen said. "I really struggle with that. Now, I really wish I never suggested he get a job."

Monen now thinks anyone younger than 18 should be barred from working on a farm "because they don't recognize the dangers." She also said children shouldn't be allowed to work on farms and ranches not owned by their parents.

"If they wanna have their own kids in there, go for it," she said.

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