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Committee Members Raise Concerns about OSHA’s Intrusion into Family Farms

House Education and the Workforce Committee members today raised concerns about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) unprecedented intrusion into family farms. In a letter to OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels, committee leaders requested documents and communications surrounding guidance that unilaterally extends OSHA jurisdiction over farms with 10 or fewer employees.

“Family farms are the latest target of the Obama administration’s regulatory overreach,” said Chairman Kline. “All employers have a moral responsibility to protect their employees; however, federal law has long exempted family farms from OSHA inspections. This policy has been supported and enforced by administrations from both political parties for nearly four decades. The Obama administration must explain to Congress and the American people why it believes it can simply circumvent the law through executive fiat.”

“The Obama administration has repeatedly targeted farmers- the foundation of many communities across America and in my district - with new regulations, the latest assault coming in the form of the Department of Labor’s attempt to boldly reinterpret a policy that has been in place since 1978 and supported by both Republican and Democrat administrations,” said Rep. Walberg. “Federal law is abundantly clear that family farms are exempt from OSHA jurisdiction and this latest attack must stop immediately.”

Since 1971 OSHA has been responsible for enforcing federal workplace safety and health standards. Congress has adopted statutory language since 1978 that prevents OHSA from inspecting farms with 10 or fewer employees. This policy has been signed into law by presidents dating back to the Carter administration. As the members note in their letter:

Now, without any public notice or review, the Obama administration has begun to overturn this legal standard through executive fiat. The June 2011 guidance redefines “farming operations” in order to allow OSHA inspectors onto family farms. Under the agency’s new and unprecedented logic, it appears anything outside of the actual growing of crops and raising of livestock could be deemed “non-farming operations” that would subject family farms to OSHA inspections. The guidance is a clear attempt to circumvent the law and the will of Congress.

Committee members urge OHSA to withdraw its guidance and ask the agency to deliver documents and communications regarding this policy change by January 28.

To read the letter, click here.

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