A memorandum from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding anhydrous ammonia retail facilities has some agriculture groups concerned that a new definition of such facilities could ultimately impact anhydrous supply and availability to farmers.
The letter comes as the House Committee on Education and the Workforce subcommittee on Workforce Protection will discuss the issue during a hearing on Wednesday at 1 p.m.
The memo, issued in July, revokes a definition of what constitutes a retail facility under the Process Safety Management program.
Previous policy was that a facility is exempt from PSM coverage, and regulated under a separate program, if it "derived more than 50%of its income from direct sales of highly hazardous chemicals to the end user."
The new policy instead suggests that facilities holding 10,000 pounds of anhydrous or 15,000 pounds of aqua ammonia are subject to PSM.
The groups say the new interpretation will expand the scope of the PSM program and require more facilities to meet PSM requirements. About 6,500 ag retail facilities exist in the U.S., and of that, 3,800 house anhydrous. They'll be under PSM requirements, groups note.
"This new interpretation will cost agricultural retail facilities tens of millions of dollars to implement. Taken together, the costs imposed by the changes will easily exceed the $100,000,000 threshold used by the OMB when determining whether a regulatory action is "major," thereby requiring review," the letter says.
Groups argue that OSHA only issued a Request for Information, and did not consult the industry before the change.
Further, the costs of the regulations "come at a time of very low commodity prices, which affect both agricultural retailers and their farm customers' business and bottom line," the letter says.
"Additionally, the six month compliance period coincides with the busy harvest season and ammonia application season. Under normal circumstances, upgrades to retailers' ammonia systems are scheduled well in advance to ensure they do not interrupt important business operations."
Signatories on the letter included the Agricultural Retailers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, The Fertilizer Institute, National Association of Corn Growers, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and National Grain and Feed Association.