Indiana farms are a long way from Washington, D.C., where the rules governing the agricultural industry are all too often written. Many of these farms are family businesses passed down through generations, with each transition passing on an improved farm and hopes for still greater successes.
U.S. Rep. Rokita has been a strong voice against ill-advised federal regulations that create new hurdles and threaten farm families, who are at the forefront of innovations in agriculture. Representing a district with a strong farm sector, Rokita continues to push against harmful regulations which threaten to raise the prices of goods for consumers in Indiana and across the country.
Belstra Milling Company is a family and employee-owned regional independent feed manufacturing company located in Demotte, Indiana. Belstra operates grain storage bins which hold as much as 300,000 bushels of grain. To help mechanize the process of emptying grain from the storage bins, Belstra utilizes sweep augers with 80,000 bushels remaining.
In 2009, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued Grain Handling Standard 1910.272(g)(1)(ii). This regulation demonstrated a critical lack of understanding of the grain industry that is so important to Hoosier farmers. Farmers from across the State of Indiana and the country have fought this regulation since its issuance. Since his election in 2010, U.S. Rep Rokita has been fighting this rule as a staple of his Red Tape Rollback Program.
After nearly two years of pressure from Congress and U.S. Rep Rokita, including staff level meetings and letters to the OSHA administrator, OSHA finally responded to his concerns. On May 3, 2013, the Directorate of Enforcement Programs for OSHA clarified the Grain Handling Standard by detailing seven engineering and work practices that would appropriately eliminate or minimize the danger posed to employees working near sweep augers. The practices include some of the most efficient and effective work practices so as to preserve the grain and feed handling industry.
"If not for the clarification from OSHA, when emptying our grain storage bins, Belstra would have had to stop and restart the emptying process 3,200 times in our largest grain storage bin alone," said Brock Peterson of Belstra Milling Company. "That simply was not feasible. Now, we can go back to using the accepted industry practice without fear of OSHA citation."
"When Washington bureaucrats attempt to regulate an industry that they've only read about, you damage the productivity of that industry," Representative Rokita said. "Far too often we see that regulations meant to help industry have a far-reaching and devastating impact; two and a half years after its implementation, this regulation finally targets the problem it sought to resolve in the first place."
Working with his constituents and the grain industry, Rep. Rokita secured another Red Tape Rollback Victory!
U.S. Rep. Rokita believes that local officials best know what the local community needs. For this reason, he has actively supported H.R. 1304, the Flexibility to Farm Act which permits governors to exempt farmers from specific federal regulations if such requirements are unduly burdensome. This legislation is currently pending in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Transportation Committee.
New regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will force small farmers and ranchers to make costly changes to their diesel fuel storage units. To combat this, U.S. Rep. Rokita co-sponsored H.R. 311, the FUELS Act, which changes the exemption levels of these new rules to reflect a farmer's spill risk and financial resources. This legislation is currently pending in the Transportation Committee.
As the consumer market continues to increase demand for organic products, it is important that consumers know what they are getting. However, certified organic producers who have their certification suspended lack the right to an administrative appeal. U.S. Rep. Rokita sent a letter to Farm Bill conferees to protect that appeal and ensure due process already afforded to other producers.
Many agricultural workers that transport fuels to on-site storage facilities face a major obstacle: drivers must possess a Class A, Hazardous Materials Commercial Driver's License (CDL) when transporting diesel fuels. U.S. Rep. Rokita is supporting H.R. 1026, which exempts Class A CDL drivers from the requirement to obtain a hazardous material endorsement while driving a vehicle with a fuel tank containing 1,000 gallons or less of diesel fuel. This legislation is currently pending in the Transportation Committee.