US Rep. Kevin Cramer has sent a letter to US Labor Secretary, Thomas Perez, together with 38 other members of Congress urging him to cancel a recent change that introduces stricter regulations on almost 300 retailers of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer in North Dakota. The lawmakers are basically asking Mr Perez to undo a recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance memo that changes the definition of a retail facility. Those facilities that have more than half of their income from direct sales of anhydrous ammonia will not be eligible for a retail exemption anymore.
Currently, there are only eight manufacturing and wholesale distribution facilities in North Dakota that fall under OSHA’s safety rule. North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner, Doug Goehring, said that the state is ready to take the case to the court if necessary in order to block the change. Mr Goehring warned it could force one-third of the 275 anhydrous ammonia retailers to leave business. Moreover, farmers would have to travel further to collect the fertilizer, which would incur higher costs as well as increase the possibility of a mishap.
The process that OSHA uses to classify the facilities has been heavily criticized by agricultural lobbies and farm-state lawmakers. The opponents argue that there was no notice of the change or stakeholder input solicited by OSHA. Mr Cramer commented that “instead of using sound science and common sense, the administration issued a one-size-fits-all rule which puts many agriculture retail facilities in jeopardy.” He further urged them “to immediately repeal this rule and work with stakeholders to create regulations which address legitimate safety concerns without destroying small businesses.”