U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) have introduced bipartisan legislation that would block a federal standard from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding anhydrous ammonia. The chemical is used as a fertilizer and input by farmers. In response to the proposed standard, the Senators introduced the Fertilizer Access and Responsible Management (FARM) Act, to counter increasing production costs and uncertainty for American farmers.
“Farmers in Nebraska rely on fertilizer so they can provide safe food to the world,” said Senator Fischer. “OSHA has circumvented Congress and public input by introducing new rules that will make it harder for farmers to do their job. The bipartisan bill Senator Heitkamp and I are introducing today would protect farm families by rolling back OSHA’s unilateral decision to create harmful rules without following the law.”
On July 22, 2015, OSHA issued new standards that restrict farmers’ abilities to access critical tools. The new policy would require facilities that store or transport 10,000 pounds or more of anhydrous ammonia to obtain Process Safety Management Standard documentation. If the facility cannot obtain this documentation, they could be forced to purchase new storage tanks, costing $70,000 or more.
“We’ve heard this burdensome standard will force more than a dozen North Dakota retailers to stop selling this critical fertilizer, severely hurting farmers across the state who will need to travel much longer distances to access fertilizer and incur higher costs,” added Senator Heitkamp. “Such sweeping and harmful actions need to be more thoroughly thought out before going into effect, and they must take into account the needs and impacts in each state. The bipartisan bill Senator Fischer and I introduced would make sure retailers and farmers have meaningful input into the process if OSHA wants to make such major changes to existing policy.”
The new standards were announced in July 2015 and became effective immediately. OSHA did not adhere to the traditional rulemaking process and instead issued interpretive guidance which does not allow for meaningful input from affected industries. The Fischer-Heitkamp bill would require OSHA to withdraw the July 2015 memo. It would also require the agency to abide by a formal rulemaking process when instituting a similar policy change in the future.