Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Under-regulation of agriculture, Exhibit A...

Farmers are, for the most part, exempt from OSHA regs. We don't need no stinking feds telling us how to be safe.

Or do we?
Recommended precautions are outlined in grain-handling standards issued by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Among them: turning off machinery that helps move grain when someone enters a grain bin, and using body harnesses so workers can be pulled to safety.

At the Mount Carroll grain elevator where the two teens died last summer, crucial safety measures were ignored, according to an OSHA investigation released in late January that cited the owner, Haasbach, for 24 violations and proposed a $555,000 fine. Haasbach, of Warren, Ill., is owned by members of three large farming families.

The company didn't train the young workers, provide safety harnesses, or make sure machinery was turned off, among other forms of negligence, OSHA alleges.

Haasbach lawyer John Doak said his client is challenging OSHA's jurisdiction because it is a farmer-owned grain storage facility that has fewer than 10 employees. [More] [My emphasis]

So when we "whine" about all the regulations stifling our profits, let's not forget the many we are exempted from by our political muscle.

For the most part, we conveniently forget all the regulatory passes we get.

Exhibit B: I just attended a rather abstruse and confusing truck regulation meeting where the state employee assured us that farmers get a pass on about everything. In fact, in IN the rumor is cops steer clear of unlicensed farmers driving overloaded, unlicensed trucks simply because they can usually beat the rap in court. I've seen some of these vehicles at the elevator myself.

We are one of the most privileged sectors in the US when it comes to regulation. So now when it looks like we may have to behave like other businesses have been for decades, we are outraged.

There is a competitive advantage in this for those who will step up and comply, I think.

Not the least of which might be a safer workplace and better community.


Anonymous said...

John, what do you think of the wetlands regulations. Or do you not have some of these small spots in the middle of a big field you have to farm around?

John Phipps said...


Sorry, don't have any, so I can't speak from experience.

But ponder this: at some point will a $25 DCP make dealing with those wetlands too much of a hassle? I know some farmers who have left the program and never looked back because of this headache.

Again, this reg is avoidable if you want to. I think we are closer to this point for more farmers than we believe.

Anonymous said...

FYI, ANY USDA subsidy received requires wetland/HEL compliance. USDA wetland regs are weaker than State DNR wetland regs - in WI at least. So, even if you were to "get out of programs" so you could tile your wetlands, DNR will enforce on you anyway.

Anonymous said...

And, there's also the US Army Corps, too...