Smith Introduces Bill to Block Unilateral Regulations on Fertilizer for Farmers

May 12, 2016 Issues: Agriculture

Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) introduced H.R. 5213, the Fertilizer Access and Responsible Management (FARM) Act, today to repeal the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) interpretive memorandum which revoked the exemption for retail facilities from Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations for anhydrous ammonia.  

Congressman Smith said:

“Anhydrous ammonia plays a crucial role in Nebraska agriculture as the most common source of nitrogen fertilizer for farmers.  The compliance costs of this rule would likely force small retailers to stop selling anhydrous ammonia, restricting producers’ access to this important input. 

“OSHA ignored federal statute requiring major regulatory actions to be published for public input.  Retailers and producers should be given the opportunity to voice their concerns and share their expertise through the formal rulemaking process rather than having yet another unilateral regulation forced upon them by this administration.”

Steve Nelson, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, said:

“Congressman Smith’s efforts to stop the implementation of these misguided OSHA rules that would add millions of dollars in new costs to Nebraska anhydrous retailers, and thus Nebraska farmers, are truly appreciated.  Nebraska agriculture should not have to pay the price for new and unnecessary regulations that were predicated over an unfortunate incident that has now been determined to have occurred by a deliberate act.  Congress should now work to immediately pass this important piece of regulatory relief.”

David Briggs, president and CEO of WESTCO in Alliance and chairman of the board of the Nebraska Cooperative Council, said:

“The Nebraska Cooperative Council applauds Congressman Smith’s leadership on behalf of Nebraska’s anhydrous ammonia fertilizer retailers and agricultural producers on this issue of significant economic impact.  OSHA’s recent correspondence to Congress asking it not to interfere with enforcement of application of the PSM standard to retail anhydrous facilities while it conducts formal rulemaking requires that Congress act to stay any costly compliance and enforcement until such time as a new rule and the requirements of any new rule are known.  Nebraska’s farmer-owned cooperatives appreciate the efforts of Congressman Smith and his staff in their prompt and thoughtful response to concerns raised by the Nebraska Cooperative Council and other Nebraska agricultural interests.”

Original cosponsors of this bipartisan bill are Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN), and Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA).

Background
In July 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) bypassed the rulemaking process and issued an interpretive memorandum redefining regulations on anhydrous ammonia, forcing retailers to comply with the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (PSM) standard from which they were previously exempt.

This memorandum impacts approximately 4,800 fertilizer retailers and will cost the industry in excess of $100 million to comply.  Federal law requires any regulatory action which has an economic impact of $100 million or more to be submitted to Congress and published for public review.

The Obama administration cited a 2013 ammonium nitrate explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas when issuing the regulatory memorandum.  This week, federal investigators announced the cause of the explosion was arson.