The U.S. Department of Labor has tried once again to open the door to the regulation of small farms across the country. In 2012, after thousands of comments, the agency was forced to withdraw a new child labor rule that would have greatly infringed on the rights of family farmers to make their own decisions about how to best raise children on the farm. Just this week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) abandoned another misguided attempt to regulate family farms when a memorandum that sought to expand OSHA oversight to include grain bins on farms previously unregulated by the agency.
This retreat came after the agency received letters signed by more than 130 members of Congress. Six members of the Alabama House delegation joined 83 members of the U.S. House of Representatives in signing a letter calling on OSHA to adhere to Congressional intent and cease taking action based on the memorandum. In addition, both U.S. Senators from Alabama joined 42 other senators in a similar letter to the agency. (House Letter and Senate Letter).
Since the 1970s, OSHA has been prohibited from regulating farms with 10 or fewer employees. The 2011 memo asserted that on-farm grain storage and handling was not part of farm operations, essentially expanding OSHA’s regulatory scope to nearly every farm in the country. The memo defied law by circumventing the established rule-making process that allows for Congressional review and public comment. This interpretation violates the statutory exemption preventing OSHA from enforcement actions on small farms with fewer than 10 employees.
On February 10, a response (OSHA Reply) was issued by the agency indicating the guidance will be removed from the OSHA website.
After a long and winding road, the farm bill, now known as the Agricultural Act of 2014, has finally been signed into law. The President signed the bill during a ceremony at Michigan State University on Friday, Feb. 7. The bill passed the Senate just three days prior. Attention now shifts to the USDA, the federal agency tasked with implementing the law. Bill Tomson with Politico has more here.
The 2014 Farm Bill is now headed to the Senate following passage in the House on Wednesday. Expect a vote to occur early next week.
The following chart reflecting anticipated farm bill spending levels by the Congressional Budget Office was created by Brad Plumer with the Washington Post:
For a complete summary of farm program provisions, AgWeb.com has a very detailed piece from Carl Zulauf with the University of Illinois here.
After a strong vote in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday, the farm bill now goes to the Senate for final passage. At this point, a cloture vote cutting off debate is expected on Monday, with a vote on the bill to follow Tuesday. For a full recap of the House vote click here.
Farm bill conferees were called back to Washington over the weekend in an effort to begin collecting signatures to finalize the farm bill package this morning. The signatures would allow conferees to approve the bill without another public meeting of the conference committee. If all goes well this morning, the bill will go to the House Committee on Rules tonight, setting up a possible floor vote on Wednesday before the House adjourns for the remainder of the week.
David Rogers with Politico has a full run down here.
When Congress adjourned for Christmas it was widely anticipated the farm bill would gain traction this week. As late as Tuesday, there was still hope for a meeting of the conferece committee before the week’s end. But now, it looks like the farm bill is slipping again…
David Rogers with Politico has the latest here.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas announced today the farm bill will have to be completed in early 2014. There are still a number of issues to be resolved and estimates on the cost of the new bill have not been completed. The House Agriculture Committee release can be viewed here.
Lucas also indicated plans to file legislation this week that provides for a short-term farm bill extension that would allow farm bill conferees more time to complete a new bill. The specifics of the extension were not immediately available, and it does not appear the Senate intends to take up an extension even if the legislation makes it through the House.