The family farm has typically been defined as one "with ten or fewer employees." The Wall Street Journal notes that OSHA has been prohibited from setting foot on farms with less than ten people...until now. This administration's modus operandi has been to make up the rules as they go: Obamacare is one example of that. Now this also applies to the family farm:
But OSHA officials have found a novel way to circumvent this statutory restraint. The regulators have simply claimed the authority to rewrite the definition of farming. A remarkable 2011 memo from OSHA's enforcement chief to regional administrators at first acknowledges that the law prevents the agency from regulating small farms engaged in growing and harvesting crops and any "related activities." But then the memo proceeds to instruct employees on how to re-categorize small farms as commercial grain handlers. So OSHA inspectors have recently begun to descend on family farms, claiming the authority to regulate their grain storage bins.
This has inspired the normally mild-mannered Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.) to take to the Senate floor recently to condemn OSHA's "absolutely incredible" and "absurd" position, which he called "a blatant overreach in violation of the law."
Mr. Johanns grew up on a farm and pointed out that "every farm has grain storage." That's because it's not practical and at times nearly impossible to sell all of a crop the moment it is harvested. Without grain storage, farmers would be forced to immediately unload everything they grow and therefore have to accept lower prices.
Senator Johanns cited as an example a farm with just one employee that was fined $130,000 by OSHA for, among other things, failing to have a plan to address dust. The senator spoke about this case recently on the Senate floor:
During a speech on the Senate floor this week, the Nebraska Republican said the agency has levied $132,000 in fines against a small Nebraska farm despite a prohibition against doing so with farming operations that have 10 or fewer employees.
Johanns said OSHA inspectors said the farm willfully violated OSHA regulations associated with atmospheric tests in a grain bin, failure to wear OSHA-approved gear when entering a grain bin and other issues.
Senator Johanns thinks OSHA "is using the fines as a testing ground for future regulation of family farm operations and their grain systems."
Clearly there is little that this administration doesn't desire to regulate and if it can't be done under current policy then policy just must be rewritten.