Blunt: Small farms must be exempt from OSHA

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) recently joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in calling for the Department of Labor to reverse its decision to subject some small farms to oversight from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Congress has prohibited OSHA from targeting farms with fewer than 10 employees since 1976. In a memo issued by OSHA, however, the agency concluded that the prohibition does not apply to farms that engage in “non-farming” activities such as storing, drying and fumigating grain.

Blunt and a bipartisan group of 41 senators voiced concern about the announcement in a recent letter to the Department of Labor.

“It has come to our attention that OSHA is now interpreting this provision so narrowly that virtually every grain farm in the country would be subject to OSHA regulations,” the senators said. “OSHA’s interpretation defies the intent of Congress in exempting farming operations from the standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”

The legislators called on Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to halt all actions based on the interpretation that grain farms are subject to oversight. The senators also called for Perez to correct the misinterpretation of the law and to provide a list of regulatory actions taken against small farms since the memo was released.

“In viewing a farm’s ‘grain bin operation’ as somehow distinct from its farming operation, OSHA is creating an artificial distinction in an apparent effort to circumvent the congressional prohibition on regulating farms,” the senators said. “The use of grain bins is an integral part of farming operations…”