Agriculture is among the most hazardous industries for children to work in. There are hundreds
of thousands of under 18 year’s children in the U.S. who are working in agricultural farms. For a lot of
children, work that is in the farm implies an early end of childhood, as they are engaged in long hours
in the farms at wages that are normally exploitative, as well as risking their health as well as their
lives at times. Even though their families need financial assistance, which makes compels them to send
children to work in the fields, the rate of poverty among farm workers are the cause of an increasing drop-
out of children from the schools. With the absence of basic education, children are left with very limited
options other than engaging in farm work activities as well as the poverty that goes with it (Association
of Farm worker Opportunity Programs, 2007).
According to the 2012 Fact Sheet, there were roughly farms in the United States. In the same
year, there were at least 955,400 youths who lived on far where nearly half of them (49%) were working
on their farms. Approximately 258,800 youths who were non-resident were employed in the agricultural
sector in the year 2012, an increase from 230,400 in 2009 (2012 Fact Sheet).
Fact Sheet 2012 states that for every three days in the U.S., one child dies as a result of accidents
that are agriculture-related. Machinery that are used in the farms are the leading sources of fatalities
that take place among all the fatalities that take place among the youths, with 25%, followed by 17%
that result from motor vehicles, whereas only 16% are as a result of drowning. There are
approximately 38 children who get injured within an incident that is related to agriculture. There were an
estimated 7,780 youths who were injured while in a farm, with 80 percent of them receiving injury while
Falls, animals, as well as vehicles, are the leading sources of injuries that are non-fatal with the
farm setting. The trends of injuries that occur on the farm have declined since 1998 by 61 percent for
CHILD LABOR IN AMERICAN AGRICULTURE 3
every 1,000 farms. Whereas the overall rates are portraying declining trend, there is an increment in the
frequency of farm injuries among children who are less than ten years.
The Human Rights Watch, through study conducted in the U.S., exploitative and perilous
conditions in which children were working in as well as the destruction that is inflicted on their education
and heath was highlighted. Children experience these kinds of hardships as a result of weak laws that
protect the rights of children, which are as well scarcely enforced. According to the findings of the study,
it was found out that the conditions that children endure while at the agricultural farms remains the same
as they were more than ten years ago. Most remarkably, the US government has failed in its addressing
of the unequal treatment among children who are working as per the Fair Labor Standards Act
(FLSA), that offers few protections towards children who are working in the agriculture field, in
comparison to all the other children who are working.
Parents take their children to work in farms because they lack childcare as well as because they
need money in order to meet the fundamental expenses in addition to purchasing of school supplies. The
legality aspect of the work as well presents working on agricultural lands as a legitimate choice for the
employers, children, in addition to parents. However, there are some parents who later express regret over
the choice of allowing their children to work on agricultural lands.
The exploitation of children to work in agricultural lands offers no minimum age for children to
commence working in farms, as long as their parents have allowed it. Children who are at least 12 years
may be hired to work on agricultural lands in the US, provided there is parental consent, or in case they
are working with their parents in the farms. Nevertheless, after attaining 14 years, children may work on
any farm even without the approval of their parents. Apart from the agricultural sector, children have to
attain at least 16 years prior to them starting to work, with only a few exceptions, where they may work in
areas that have very restricted conditions (Human Rights Watch. 2012).
Most of the time, children work for at least 10 hours in a day with few breaks. For children who
are still schooling, work is allocated to them particularly during the weekends as well as summers when
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schools are closed. However, children who have dropped out of schools, with the inclusion of
unaccompanied children coming without their families to the US from countries like Mexico work
whenever work is available.
The US laws do not provide for the maximum number of hours that children in the US can work
on agricultural lands. Nevertheless, in other non-agricultural fields, children who are between 14-15 years
cannot be allowed to work for 3 hours a day.
Another significant aspect about children who work in agricultural lands is that they typically
earn less than the legally minimum wage. The reason for a pay cut for children is mainly due to
under reporting of hours worked for by the employers as they are compelled to purchase tools, as well
as other equipment that they are obligated by the law to provide for their workers.
Children are exposed to a lot of health perils by working in agricultural lands. For instance, by
working on the agricultural lands without the appropriate working equipment, children may be exposed
to pesticides that are being sprayed on plants, hence posing a health threat to them. Some children in the
US have aired their complaint to the Human Rights Watch that they even get sprayed on by the pesticides
when they are in the farm working. There have been complaints as well concerning lack of provision of
clean water by the employers, which is against the OSHA act that requires agricultural employers to
provide safe drinking water to their workers (Agricultural Safety, 2009).
The exposure to pesticides is a key hazard among the farm workers, but more specifically on
children as their bodies are still developing. They are especially vulnerable to chemicals as they may
absorb them much easily as compared to the adults. Children who are working in agricultural farms
record a high rate of illnesses that are related to pesticides. Some of the effects of exposure to pesticides
includes rashes, nausea, as well as vomiting. Consequently, the long-term effects include brain damage or
even death in severe cases.
The EPA regulations in the US prohibits the spraying of crops with pesticides when workers in
the field are not protected. The EPA specifies the amount of time that people ought to be permitted to
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work on a farm after it has been sprayed with a pesticide. Nevertheless, the EPA regulations do not make
any special considerations for the children who are working on farms. In addition, pesticides risk
assessment does not take the vulnerabilities of children into account.
Sexual Abuse: children who work in agricultural lands are very vulnerable to sexual abuse that
range from inappropriate or intimidating comments towards groping, sexual assault, as well as rape. Even
when such incidences take place, there are several factors that inhibit their reporting to the relevant
authorities. They include factors such as geographical isolation, fear of deportation, as well as the
desperate need for money.
In conclusion, despite the above highlighted health as well as safety risks that come with the
working on children in working on agricultural lands, the laws in the US are scarcely enforced so as to
safeguard the rights belonging to the children. Children are the pillars of the future society, and they
ought to be safeguarded by any means possible. The US Department of Labor, should come up with
stricter rules for allowing children to work in firms. In addition, the current laws should as well be