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While the November 2010 elections reduced the likelihood that some legislative initiatives adverse to agriculture would be passed in Congress, “the reality is that regulation could and would be used to achieve the goals of activists who are now in power,” says Kent Fountain, president of the National Cotton Ginners Association.
Potential new air quality standard
A new national ambient air quality standard is being considered, he says, which would call for a decrease in the current course particulate matter threshold by roughtly 50 percent.
“This new standard could be significant,” Fountain says, “because it could put more regions of the cotton belt into a non-attainment status, causing gins to resort to more costly pollution controls. This possibility continues to be a major concern for our industry.”
— Occupational Safety and Health Administration-related proposals, which could have an impact on gins and other industry sectors.
In recent NCGA committee meetings, Fountain says, “We have been told by a former OSHA official that the agency’s philosophy has changed under the current administration, and that we are in an environment favorable toward both labor and labor unions.
“OSHA has shifted its focus to enforcement, we are told, and has increased both the frequency of inspections and fines for violations. Labor unions are pursuing many changes in the workplace environment and are using OSHA and its regulations to achieve their goals.”
A second former OSHA official has said that recordkeeping, respirable dust, and the implementation of combustible dust regulations “are OSHA priorities,” Fountain says.
“With OSHA’s target issues being the noise standard, the implementation of an illness/injury protection program, fall protection systems, and combustible dust, it is sobering to note that in two years’ tie we could have some type of rulemaking under way for each of these priorities.”
— Employment issues, such as overtime and bonuses, “tend to cause problems for many of our ginners,” Fountain says.
“The NCGA has updated our labor guide go assist ginners in adhering to labor regulations.” Various materials related to labor regs and employment of migrant laborers can be found on the organization’s website.
“With increased enforcement and the possibility of fines, it is incumbent upon ginners to insure that they are abiding by all labor laws and OSHA rules and regulations,” he says. “Our Ginners Labor Guide is an excellent resource for insuring compliance with these rules.”