OSHA Strikes Again

January 9, 2014

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you. 

And now for today’s commentary— 

You can’t make it up. It’s real. OSHA is after us again. They are so creative. I got my details on this latest regulatory overreach from last Thursday’s Wall Street Journal and former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns. “Since the 1970s annual federal appropriations bills have explicitly prohibited the federal workplace overseer from descending on small family farms. It says – OSHA does not have jurisdiction over farming operations with 10 or fewer employees.” Is that clear? 

However, OSHA decided to classify family farms as commercial grain handlers. They think that should give them the authority to regulate the grain storage facility. 

Secretary Johanns called this action “absurd – a violation of the law.” From my perspective, I am shocked. I guess I should not be surprised. My farm fits their definition. We have grain storage. We have less than 10 employees and it’s a family farm. Former Ag Secretary Johanns is a Senator from Nebraska now. OSHA recently fined a small Nebraska farm $130,000. For what? No one was hurt. I guess their farm didn’t “have a written plan to control fugitive grain dust” in their grain storage bins. Since the case is still being litigated, OSHA says they can’t comment. 

Another example is a father-and-son farming operation in Ohio with 1 employee. An OSHA inspector showed up on their farm and began pressing them, questioning them. After the Ohio farm contested OSHA’s claims, OSHA withdrew all citations against the farm. 

Maybe OSHA will come to realize that agriculture is not going to take this kind of unlawful overreach laying down. We need to stand our ground.  

This is a growing problem for agriculture and other industries. In the first place, President Obama’s agenda is to regulate more. “Government knows best.” And second, it is not surprising that regulatory agencies will look for more things to regulate anyway. That’s how they justify their existence. The best solution is to cut their budget. Take their money away.  

Until next week, I am John Block in Washington, D.C.