Congressman Kevin Cramer

Representing North Dakota, At Large
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Cramer to Labor Secretary: Dismiss OSHA Fines Against Small Farming Operations

Jan 27, 2014
Press Release

BISMARCK, N.D. – Today Congressman Kevin Cramer responded to reports of excessive regulatory fines being imposed on small farming operations by calling on U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to cease such action. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has begun enforcement action against small farms with less than 10 employees, despite being prohibited by Congress from doing so under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1976.

“Farmers and landowners have a strong vested and personal interest in keeping their operations safe and viable, and they are already subject to countless regulations to ensure operational integrity. If the Administration believes OSHA should be given authority to regulate small farming operations, evidence would need to be presented to Congress and passed through the normal legislative process,” Congressman Cramer and colleagues wrote to Secretary Perez.

News reports indicate small farming operations are receiving up to $132,000 in OSHA fines. The recent fines stem from a 2011 operations memo which acknowledges the 1976 law prohibiting use of OSHA funds for regulating farms with ten or fewer employees, while at the same time implying authority over grain drying and fumigating operations by declaring they are not central to an agricultural operation.

“The memo has since been broadly interpreted to provide OSHA inspectors authority to regulate on-farm grain storage and other activities not directly related to growing and harvest,” the letter adds.

The 2014 omnibus budget signed into law last week includes a provision further prohibiting OSHA from enforcing such fines. Cramer said this bipartisan consensus makes it clear OSHA needs to dismiss any outstanding fines issued in violation of the provision, and cease its unnecessary overreach into small farming operations.  

“We applaud Congressman Cramer for his efforts to rein in OSHA and the Department of Labor. North Dakota farmers and ranchers are responsible and make every effort to keep their operations safe for themselves, their families and their employees. We appreciate Congressman Cramer’s leadership in protecting North Dakotans against over-zealous federal regulations,” said North Dakota Farm Bureau State President, Doyle Johannes.

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