Ag Employers Fight to Keep Employees Safe, Housed, and Earning Wages this Farming Season

January 6, 2021, SALEM, OR: On January 4, the Oregon Farm Bureau Federation (OFB) filed a formal Petition to OR-OSHA on behalf of agricultural housing providers seeking common-sense solutions to agricultural labor housing protections during COVID-19. As OFB has made clear since the beginning of the pandemic, there is a way to protect agricultural employees and farm operators, while also keeping farms viable and employees housed and earning wages. Unfortunately, the rules adopted by OR-OSHA in May 2020, and extended through Executive Order 20-58, fail to strike this important balance, and have caused substantial harm to both farmworkers and the farm families who employ them.

In OFB’s 31-page Petition, agricultural employers propose administrative rules related to physical distancing, masks, face shields and face coverings, sanitation, ventilation, signage, training, notification, reporting, and mandatory COVID-19 response plans. The proposed rules would remedy past deficiencies by allowing for more safe housing options, protecting employee autonomy, and providing a necessary contingency plan for employers if there is an outbreak on farm. As proposed, the rules would come into effect immediately, and would sunset upon the end of the emergency declaration or at the end of 2021, whichever comes first.

“Because our concerns with the current rules have continually fallen upon deaf ears, filing a formal Petition is the only way to ensure that agricultural housing providers have a seat at the table when determining how best to manage their housing and protect their employees during COVID-19. We hope this Petition shows the state and the public what we already know to be true — Oregon’s farm and ranch families will walk the walk when it comes to protecting the wellbeing of those who work and live on the farm,” said Samantha Bayer, OFB Policy Counsel.

“OFB looks forward to working with the state in the adoption of these rules, and hopes OR-OSHA will initiate a formal rulemaking based upon this Petition as soon as possible to protect farmworkers and operators,” said Bayer.

See the OFB Petition.