Grassley: OSHA has overstepped its bounds

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyThe Trail 2016: Fight night Clinton, Trump tied in Iowa, Grassley leads in Senate race Senate rivals gear up for debates MORE (R-Iowa) said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has gone against the will of Congress by regulating small family farms.

“OSHA is overstepping its bounds here,” Grassley said Monday. “The federal government is expanding its reach to include farms that should be exempt, and is doing so despite the clear intent of Congress.”

Grassley complained that OSHA has found a loophole that allows it to oversee small family farms with fewer than 10 employees by regulating grain storage.

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“Worker safety is an important concern for all of us, including the many farmers who probably know better than OSHA regulators how to keep themselves and their employees safe on farms,” Grassley said. “If the administration believes that OSHA should be able to enforce its regulations on farms, it should make that case to Congress rather than twisting the law in the service of bureaucratic mission creep.”

Grassley wrote a letter to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, who oversees OSHA, asking him to correct the agency’s “misinterpretation of the law,” because, according to Congress, the administration can’t regulate family-run farms with 10 or fewer employees. Nearly 40 senators joined him by signing the letter.

“OSHA’s interpretation defies the intent of Congress in exempting farming operations from the standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Act,” the letter stated. “In viewing a farm’s ‘grain bin operation’ as somehow distinct from its farming operation, OSHA is creating an artificial distinction in an apparent effort to circumvent the Congressional prohibition on regulating farms.”

Grassley said storing grain in bins is a fundamental aspect of farming. He asked OSHA to stop its regulation of small farms and provide a list and description of regulatory actions taken against farms with incorrectly categorized nonfarming activities and 10 or fewer employees since June 2011. He gave OSHA until Feb. 1, 2014, to respond.

The letter was also signed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), John Thune (R-S.D.), David Vitter (R-La.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).