Opinion: Time to end the Standard Time insanity

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If I could I’d hop into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback (WABAC “patent pending”) Machine.

“Sherman set the WABAC for the turn of the 20th century.  There are two guys I’d like to slap with a wet lasagna noodle”

One of the guys is New Zealander George Hudson, who liked to spend his spare time playing golf.

The other guy is Englishman William Willet, who’s fun time passion was collecting bugs.  By now you got to be wondering what’s my beef with these two guys and what could they possibly have in common.

Well it turns out each of them independently had the rather selfish idea of changing the clocks in good summer weather to allow them extra time to pursue their hobbies.

While somewhat vocal, Hudson and Willet’s idea went exactly nowhere.  That is until Gavrilo Princip assassinated Austrian archduke, Franz Ferdinand and his wife, on June 28, 1914 triggering the start of World War I.

On April 30,1916 the Germans set their clocks ahead to save on coal-powered lighting for the war effort.  Two days later the Brits joined in on the clock changing fun. And daylight saving time became a thing.

On this side of the pond the U.S. Congress approved “An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States” on March 19, 1918.

But the time change was so unpopular that it was repealed in 1919 with of all things a Congressional override of President Woodrow Wilson’s veto pen.  “Wilson what the heck were you thinking?”

But it turns out daylight saving time has more lives than your average cat.  Despite the veto, daylight saving time continued in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  Chicago, New York and Philadelphia also kept daylight saving time. In World War II (1942-45) President Franklin Roosevelt resurrected daylight saving time (War Time).  After that, at least until 1966, states could do their own thing on daylight saving time, creating a mess of confusion.

Some 100 million Americans were on locally prescribed daylight saving time laws by 1966.
Congress and President Johnson tried to put an end to the half century merry go round with the Uniform Time Act which nationally required clocks to spring forward one hour the last Sunday of April and fall back one hour the last Sunday of October.

In 1974 President Richard Nixon tried settle the argument once and for all with his Emergency Daylight Savings Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973.

But Congress amended Nixon’s act bringing back standard time in October of 1974.  And that’s pretty much where we are today (with the exception of various national laws changing what days to spring forward and fall back).

If reading this has made your head spin and feel a little cranky you know exactly how I felt in March when once again out of nowhere we sprang forward an hour.

It turns out springing forward and back has real life health consequences: More car accidents; potential connection with workplace injury; higher risk of heart attacks.

Why the heck are we still doing this?  And can we put a stop to the madness?

There a a lot of myths floating out there about why the daylight saving time-standard time hokey pokey is dandy.  Some are ag related.

I actually learned in third grade that the U.S. needed daylight saving time to help the farmer.  The teacher says farmers wanted daylight saving time so they could have more time to work in the fields in the summer. Turns out my teacher was misinformed.  Farmers lobbied against daylight saving time  in 1919.

Author Michael Downing writes in his book, Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time that farmers opposed daylight saving time because they had to wait on the sun to dry dew off their crops before picking and heading to market.

Dairy farmers don’t like daylight saving time because cows like the routine of being milked at the same times each day. Turns out there’s not much of an agricultural economic argument to make that favors time change.

Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and Florida Representative Vern Buchanan have introduced the Sunshine Protection Act.

The bill would make daylight saving time permanent across the nation.

It’s time to end the spring forward fall back merry go round.  There are legitimate reasons to do so. Otherwise I’ll need to find that Wayback machine.

Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for Big Ag Watch covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. Email him at dave.dickey@investigatemidwest.org.

This column reflects the writer’s own opinions and not those of Big Ag Watch.

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