Since the 1970s, annual federal appropriations bills have explicitly prohibited the federal workplace overseer from descending on small family farms. Specifically, OSHA does not have jurisdiction over “farming operations” with 10 or fewer employees.
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…
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