A group of 43 U.S. Senators is asking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to refrain from reclassifying family farms as commercial grain handlers to get around a Congressional edict that farms with fewer than 10 employees be exempt from OSHA regulations.

Since 1976, Congress has repeatedly inserted language in appropriations bills to exclude these "family farms" from OSHA regulation, but in 2011 the agency started claiming that activities such as drying, fumigating and storing grain threw family farms into a different category that is subject to OSHA regulations.

A $132,000 fine levied on Nebraska farmer James Luers got Senator Mike Johanns (R., Neb.) involved, and he rounded up 42 other Senators to draft a letter to OSHA while Luers contests his fine.

The letter to Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Thomas Perez asks him to tell OSHA inspectors to “cease all actions predicated on this interpretation . . . issue guidance correcting the misinterpretation of the law (suggesting consultation with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and organizations representing farmers for assistance) and provide a list and description of regulatory actions taken against farms with incorrectly categorized non-farming activities and 10 or fewer employees since June 2011.”