Editor’s Notebook: Fallin for farms, Kids for Christmas

Gov. Mary Fallin stuck up for family farms this week; then performed an annual holiday duty for Oklahoma’s chief executives when she led state Capitol celebrations of the Christmas season.
Fallin and Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Jim Reese sent U.S. Agriculture Secretary Hilda L. Solis a letter dated November 30, blasting the Obama Administration’s proposed child labor regulations, published September 2 at 76 Fed. Reg. 54836.
The pair argued that in light of “sedentary lifestyles” driven by computers, video games, all access TV and poor eating habits, the administration’s proposal “to restrain and/or limit on-farm employment” was misguided.
They asserted, “”The youth of America would benefit greatly from working on the farm, in the open air, learning about animals, crops and wildlife. Hauling hay, riding horses, sorting cattle and driving tractors have been a learning foundation for many of our nation’s most successful citizens.”
They continued, “Our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are much more able to determine and teach farm safety to our youth than government officials in Washington, D.C.”
Arguing against the federal government’s newly proposed rules, Fallin and her cabinet member pointed to the existence of farm safety classes in every corner of the Sooner State. They said Cooperative Extension and Vocational Agricultural Education programs are ways to continue to promote safety in the agricultural workplace.
As opposition to the regulations intensified, federal officials have said the proposed regulations will “in no way compromise the statutory child labor parental exemption involving children working on farms owned or operated by their parents.”
However, Reese and Fallin countered, “farms are also a great tool and educator for many urban youth or ‘town kids’ that work summers on a friend’s farm. Many family farms have a corporate structure or become a Limited Liability Corporation to adhere to best business practices; yet they are entirely family inclusive. There are just too many exceptions needed to make this rule.”
The joint letter contended, “We need more young farmers in Oklahoma, not less. We need more young people to know where food comes from, not less. We need more young people outside, exercising, working and earning rather than discouraging this practice. The federal government should not construct further employment barriers at a time when there are fewer job opportunities available for young people.”
Fallin became the first woman in state history to preside over the state’s official tree lighting ceremony Thursday evening (December 1). She was joined at the ceremony by her husband, “first gentleman” Wade Christensen and his son, Adam. Assisting Fallin were Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, Danielle Kimble (a student from the “Positive Tomorrows” school in Oklahoma City) and, of course, Santa Claus.
Fallin thanked the range of agencies and individuals involved in the annual ceremony, including a local McDonald’s franchise that provided apple dippers and juice to students who came for an afternoon of tree decorating and for the lighting ceremony at dusk. Weyerhaeuser Company provided the 30-foot tree that now stands on the plaza on the south side of the Capitol.
In brief remarks on the cool and windy evening, Fallin reflected, “As you all know, Christmas is a joyous time of the year, a time for celebration with family and friends, and a time for reflecting on the many wonderful blessings given to us by God.
“It’s also a time to think on the teachings of our Lord and Savior and to reflect on how we can be better servants to God, and better messengers of his Word.
Lastly, it’s a time for us to remember those who can’t be here with us today to celebrate, especially those who are serving overseas. During this holiday season, I hope you’ll join me in praying for our military men and women – many of whom won’t be able to be with their families this Christmas. We owe them in enormous debt of gratitude.”
Fallin took note of one of the holiday trees inside the capitol where children had dedicated their work to military service personnel.
Kimble, from the Positive Tomorrows Elementary, a privately-funded school for homeless children, assisted Fallin with the lighting countdown.
A variety of public schools joined in the day of Capitol events, both in tree decorations and musical performances. Oklahoma’s City’s Linwood Elementary honor choir sang, as did the Harding Fine Arts Academy Choir, representing local charter schools. The student orchestra from Edmond North, a dancing ensemble from Mustang Alternative, the Elgin High marching band, a “global music” group from Norman and Norman North, and several other groups joined in the festivities.