Rep. Richard Hanna is urging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to delay its new random inspection program for dairy farms. He and six other upstate members of Congress, including Dan Maffei, Bill Owens and Tom Reed, signed a letter to the assistant secretary of labor for OSHA asking for consideration.
Hanna, a Republican whose district covers Utica, Binghamton and Cortland, says many of the more than 5,000 dairy farms in upstate New York are small operations and cannot afford the heavy costs associated with getting an OSHA fine. He says OSHA should allow farmers the opportunity to prepare and educate themselves for the inspections before they begin.
"Farmers are just, correctly, anxious about what they're in for and what the ramifications are, what the fines are and what the depth and breadth of these investigations will be. For me, having a guy whose been in business for 30 years, there's nothing worse than having some bureaucrat show up at your door and tell you that he's there to help you."
Hanna says there are other parts of the program that also need to be examined, especially the department's view of what a temporary worker is.
"The idea that OSHA could indiscriminately show up, not knowing if there are temporary workers, not providing an accurate, concise definition of what a temporary, who a temporary worker might be. And they do, they ask things like 'Do you send money back home? What is your country of origin?' It's a little too Orwellian for me."
The inspection program is scheduled to begin in July. Hanna says he would rather see the program be about safety than investigate who is working on the farm and why.