With life comes risk.

Heck, the very act of getting out of bed poses certain dangers. One could easily trip over a wayward shoe in the darkness, fall and break a hip.

The government solution?

Regulate waking.

No peril exists that some politician or government bureaucrat thinks he can’t fix. So, the feds pass laws, formulate regulations and codify statutes.

Yet every day, people keep finding ways to injure, maim and kill themselves.

Naturally, the federal nannies pass more laws, adding to pages and pages and pages of existing regulation, as if reams paper could somehow mitigate every possible risk that exists.

Bureaucrats and politicians suffer from delusions of grandeur mixed with a healthy dose of arrogance. They generally think they can plan your life better than you can. They are here to help, but complain about the burden imposed by their rules and they will sternly point fingers at you, and chastise you for your callousness and lack of compassion for your fellow human beings.

And make no mistake, their laws create burdens.

Take the proposed changes to the federal child labor laws for agricultural workers. On Sept. 2, the Department of Labor released fifty plus pages worth of nearly incomprehensible legalese. The rational: keep children safe. But farmers say, if approved, the regulations would hamstring family and multi-generational farmers, preventing them from teaching their kids valuable skills, and from supplying much needed labor on farms and ranches across the U.S.

According to Craig Anderson, Agriculture Labor and Safety Services division manager at Michigan Farm Bureau, the new regulations would make it illegal for farm workers under 16 to heard or sort animals on horseback; operate any farm equipment; operate any vehicle, tractor or feed truck; and operate any tools not powered by hand. On top of that, these rules would apparently even apply to kids not working for pay.

“That means my son can’t help his grandparents move cattle from field to field on horseback. It is illegal for my son to help his grandparents change water. It is illegal for my son to drive the feed truck for his grandfather in the winter,” Jeff Fowle, a fourth generation family farmer and rancher from Etna, Calif., wrote on his blog.

The proposed regulations present the reader with a tangled jumble of analysis, doublespeak and legal references, nearly impossible to comprehend. Anderson said he spent a considerable amount of time examining DOL Proposed Rules 29 CFR Parts 570 and 579. The Michigan Farm News reports Anderson didn’t like what he saw.

“In agriculture, it is common for farms to be operated by two, three or even five generations of family members,” Anderson told the paper. “The grandparents own the land, their children are buying into the farm and may have some land on their own, and the grandchildren are working to understand what it takes to be a farmer. If the parents and grandparents operate the farm, the grandchildren under 16 would be prohibited from working on the operation.”

The regulations fall under the Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938. Over the years, Congress and the DOL have made numerous revisions, tightening restrictions and bringing more activities under federal control. The child labor laws under the FLSA have always included exemptions for children working for parents, and also for minors who take classes under organizations such as 4H and FFA. Anderson says the new regulations eliminate exemptions for many of those programs and tighten restrictions on youth working for their parents.

The Michigan Farm News calls the new regulations confusing and contradictory, pointing out that one section of the DOL proposal indicates the “parent or person standing in the place of the parent shall be a human being and not an institution or facility…”

Anderson says he agrees that contradictory and confusing language masks the true scope of the new regulations.

“Don’t let the spin fool you. They’ll say there’s nothing for farm families to worry about because there is an exemption for children working on their parents’ farm. The DOL proposal says it will maintain the family exemption, but later limits the exemption for any business or multi-generation farm,” Anderson said. “If you farm with a brother or sister, an uncle or aunt, grandparents or cousins, the exception does not apply to any of the families’ youth under 16. If you have a non-family business partner, the exemption would not apply even if you are the controlling partner.”

All designed, of course, to “protect the children.”

“Here’s what the government thinks is common sense,” Anderson said. “Eliminate work to protect workers. If you don’t work, you can’t be hurt on the job. Who can argue with that?”

Fowle puts it more bluntly.

“I am sorry, but this new proposed regulation is flat-out asinine.”

Even if one accepts the premise, a question remains: where does the federal government find the authority to regulate agricultural work?

In short, it doesn’t.

The feds justify labor laws under the broad interpretation of the commerce clause that gives the federal government virtually unlimited power to regulate pretty much anything it wants. The courts have created and approved this sweeping definition of the commerce clause, but it directly contradicts the framers’ understanding of commerce and the intended scope of the power. Commerce means trade. It was never intended to give the federal government power to regulate agriculture or manufacturing. In fact, Madison considered the commerce power quite limited.

It is very certain that [the commerce clause] grew out of the abuse of the power by the importing States in taxing the non-importing, and was intended as a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States themselves, rather than as a power to be used for the positive purposes of the General Government.

Tenth Amendment Center deputy director Bryce Shonka said he wonders where it will ultimately end.

“I wonder if this would also then apply to all the yard work I did as a kid. I built a deck with my dad once. Send in the SWAT team! There’s a guy over there attempting to build a deck with his son!!!”

Ernie Birchmeier, livestock and dairy specialist with Michigan Farm Bureau, told the Michigan Farm News that the new regulations need to be stopped.

“There were many times as a child, after a day on the hay wagon, that I wished it was illegal for me to work,” he said. “But looking back, those days taught me some of the most important lessons in life. This DOL proposal is simply another indication of a government philosophy that it knows what’s best for you. That’s why we urge every farmer out there to read this document and submit comments to the DOL early and often.”

And the Tenth Amendment Center calls on state legislatures to step in and interpose for their farmers and resist this unconstitutional overreach. This represents an area of regulation best left to the states. What does a bureaucrat sitting inside a marble building in D.C. understand about farm work in Montana?

About as the same as that farmer will comprehend reading the bureaucrats inane regulations.

Mike Maharrey