Wicker, Cochran: OSHA to Honor Small Farm Regulatory Exemption

Agency Bends to Lawmakers’ Concerns, Abandons Effort to Oversee Small Farm Grain Storage

February 13, 2014

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today said they are pleased that small family-owned farms will not be subjected to unlawful scrutiny by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Under pressure from Wicker, Cochran and other lawmakers in the Senate and House, OSHA has agreed to withdraw its 2011 guidance memorandum on regulating small farms with grain storage. That instructional memorandum was widely viewed as violating a long-standing congressional prohibition on OSHA regulation of small farms and as a potentially costly burden on more than 300,000 farms in the United States with on-farm grain storage.

“I’ve said all along that OSHA has no business regulating grain storage bins on family farms,” Wicker said. “I am encouraged to see that the agency finally seems to have come to its senses on this issue.”

“Farming is a hard business, particularly for small family-owned operations.  This is why we’ve historically exempted small farms from the heavy hand of OSHA regulations,” said Cochran, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.  “I am pleased the Department of Labor and OSHA have retreated from a misguided effort to extend their regulatory authority over small farming operations.”

The OSHA withdrawal of its June 2011 directive follows its acknowledgement in January that small farms with grain storage facilities are exempt from regulations, a concession made after Cochran, Wicker and 41 other Senators demanded that OSHA stop its regulatory overreach toward small farms.  Congress has specifically exempted small farm operations from OSHA regulations since 1976.

In withdrawing its recent push to oversee small farm grain bins, OSHA also reiterated its pledge to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and organizations representing farmers to clarify rules regarding grain storage.