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Cramer signs letter urging OSHA to undo change affecting fertilizer retailers

BISMARCK, N.D. - U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer joined 38 other members of Congress in sending a letter Monday to U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez urging him to undo a recent change that imposes stricter regulations on 275 retailers of anhydrous ammonia...

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BISMARCK, N.D. – U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer joined 38 other members of Congress in sending a letter Monday to U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez urging him to undo a recent change that imposes stricter regulations on 275 retailers of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer in North Dakota.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers – including Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the House Agriculture Committee’s ranking member – are asking Perez to reverse a recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance memo that redefines what constitutes a retail facility.

Facilities that derive more than 50 percent of their income from direct sales of anhydrous ammonia were notified in an OSHA memo July 22 that they will no longer be eligible for a retail exemption and will have to meet OSHA’s Process Safety Management standards by Jan. 21.

Currently, North Dakota has only eight manufacturing and wholesale distribution facilities that fall under OSHA’s safety rule.

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring has said the state is prepared to take legal action if necessary to block the change. He warned it could push one-third of the 275 anhydrous ammonia retailers out of business and force farmers to travel farther to pick up the fertilizer, raising costs and the chances of a mishap.

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Leaders of agricultural groups and farm-state lawmakers have complained about the process OSHA used to reclassify the facilities, saying there was no notice of rulemaking or stakeholder input solicited by OSHA.

“Instead of using sound science and common sense, OSHA issued a one-size-fits-all rule which threatens many agriculture retail facilities,” Cramer said in a news release. “I urge them to immediately repeal this rule and work with stakeholders to create regulations which address legitimate safety concerns without destroying small businesses.”

An OSHA official told Forum News Service last month that the agency sought stakeholder input in December 2013 on the interpretation of retail facilities and received numerous comments that were incorporated into the final interpretation.

Still, OSHA has decided to delay enforcement of the new regulations until July 22 while legal issues are settled, Cramer noted. The change is being challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia Circuit.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTACROPS
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