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Thune, other senators fight farm regulations

By South Dakota Ag Connection

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., Friday led an effort with 42 of his Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle in requesting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration immediately stop what he says is unlawful regulation of family farms.

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U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., also signed the letter.

The senators also direct OSHA to issue updated guidance correcting what is called misinterpretation of current law. The request was made in a joint letter to Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, who oversees OSHA.

Since 1976, Congress has exempted small, family run farms from OSHA regulations, but in a 2011 memo OSHA asserted that on-farm grain storage and handling was not part of farm operations. The memo essentially expanded OSHA’s regulatory scope to nearly every farm in the country without going through the established rule making process that allows Congressional review and public comment, critics have said.

In addition to Johanns and Thune, the letter is signed by Northern Plains U.S. Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and John Hoeven, R-N.D.