Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to Host Conference Call on USDA Efforts to Create Economic Opportunities in Rural America PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by USDA Communications Office   
Monday, 07 February 2011 14:39

WASHINGTON, February 7, 2011 – TOMORROW, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will host a national media conference call highlighting USDA efforts to help rural America win the future by helping businesses expand and increase economic opportunities in rural communities.

Secretary Vilsack will announce projects in the following states: Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
10:15 a.m. EST
WHAT: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will host a media conference call to discuss
USDA efforts to help rural America win the future by helping businesses expand and increase economic opportunities in rural communities.


Passcode: USDA (Given Verbally)

Trouble number: 202-720-8560

All callers using the above pass code will be placed in listen only mode.  To join the Q&A portion of the meeting, these callers are instructed to press *1 on their touch tone phone.

Iowa Farm Bureau Applauds Governor Branstad's Tough Stance on Balancing the Budget PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Laurie Johns   
Monday, 31 January 2011 14:50

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – Jan. 28, 2011 – Iowa Farm Bureau members support many aspects of Governor Branstad’s $6.1 billion budget, starting with the $160 million in direct property tax relief to Iowans, an issue that Farm Bureau members have sought from previous administrations and legislatures.

“The Governor, just like farmers, has made several tough decisions in order to correct our budget shortfalls.  We all need to live within our means and our government is no exception,” said Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) President Craig Lang.  “Our members across the state agree that small businesses are a key to Iowa’s vital economic growth.   Supporting them will help make us more attractive for new employers and their jobs.”

Branstad, who was designated as a Farm Bureau Friend of Agriculture in the fall campaign, also noted that strong growth in agriculture provides Iowa with a unique opportunity to fix its budget.  Property tax reform has long been the cornerstone of budget reform heralded by IFBF, because in the past decade, Iowa property taxes have soared by $1.59 billion, or 60 percent.

Branstad said that while tax policy reforms can help Iowa compete for new jobs, a bureaucracy that  “fails to understand the critical relationship between burdensome regulation and job creation” can undo Iowa’s economic progress.  IFBF agrees and has long called for measures to strengthen the legislative oversight of Iowa’s rule-making process.  “Placing unnecessary regulatory and financial hurdles in front of responsible Iowa farmers impacts the success and diversity of Iowa’s important ag sector,” said Lang.

Iowa’s largest grassroots farm organization has long supported the state’s academic and athletic programs.  “Education has always been a top priority for Farm Bureau.  The funding of education is shared between the State of Iowa and property taxpayers, and we stress the importance of the state funding their commitment to education,” said Lang.  Branstad’s 2012 budget calls for fully funding the school budget, which last year was underfunded by $156 million, leaving local school districts to levy additional property taxes to fill the void.

IFBF members look forward to working with lawmakers and the Governor during this legislative session to give Iowans what they want: a fiscally-responsible budget and a real chance for Iowa’s statewide economic growth.


US Labor Department cites 2 Illinois grain elevator operators for willful safety, child labor violations following deaths of 3 workers, including 2 teens PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Scott Allen   
Monday, 24 January 2011 14:10

Employers fined nearly $1.4 million 

MOUNT CARROLL, Ill. – The U.S. Department of Labor has fined Haasbach LLC in Mount Carroll and Hillsdale Elevator Co. in Geneseo and Annawan, Ill., following the deaths of three workers, including two teenagers.  The workers were killed when they suffocated after being engulfed by grain.

“The tragic deaths of three people could have been prevented had the grain bin owners and operators followed the occupational safety standards and child labor laws,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.  “It is unconscionable to allow a minor to work in any high-hazard area. Haasbach’s and Hillsdale’s disregard for the law and commonsense safety practices has led to devastation for three families.”

At least 25 U.S. workers were killed in grain entrapments last year, and the numbers of entrapments are increasing, according to researchers at Purdue University. There were more grain entrapments in 2010 than in any year since they started collecting data on entrapments in 1978.

“Grain entrapments kill workers.  All employers, especially those in high-hazard industries, must prevent workers from being hurt or killed as a result of recognized hazards,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “There is absolutely no excuse for any worker to be killed in this type of incident.”

The fines to both companies total $1,352,125.  Haasbach was issued 24 citations from the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration with a penalty of $555,000 following an investigation into the deaths of the two young workers, Wyatt Whitebread and Alex Pacas (ages 14 and 19 years old, respectively), at the company’s grain elevator in Mount Carroll. A 20-year-old man also was seriously injured in the July 2010 incident when all three became entrapped in corn more than 30 feet deep. At the time of the incident, the workers were “walking down the corn” to make it flow while machinery used for evacuating the grain was running.

The department’s Wage and Hour Division’s separate investigation found that Haasbach violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s Child Labor standards for employing anyone less than 18 years of age to perform hazardous jobs prohibited by the act.  As a result, the division issued Haasbach $68,125 in civil money penalties.  More information on child labor rules and hazardous occupations can be found at

Hillsdale Elevator was issued 22 citations by OSHA following the death of a 49-year-old worker, Raymond Nowland, who was engulfed by corn in a storage bin at the company’s facility in Geneseo. OSHA discovered additional violations during a later inspection of the company’s Annawan facility.  Consequently, OSHA issued the company $729,000 in fines.

Since 2009, OSHA has fined grain operators in Illinois, Colorado, South Dakota and Wisconsin following similar preventable fatalities and injuries. In addition to enforcement actions, OSHA sent a notification letter to grain elevator operators warning them not to allow workers to enter grain storage facilities without proper equipment, precautions and training. “OSHA will not tolerate non-compliance with the Grain Handling Facilities standard,” said Michaels in the letter. “We will continue to use our enforcement authority to the fullest extent possible.”

OSHA’s Region V, which includes Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin, initiated a Grain Safety Local Emphasis Program in August 2010, and has since conducted 61 inspections and issued 163 violations to grain operators/facilities. The violations cover hazards associated with grain engulfment, machine guarding, lockout/tagout of dangerous equipment to prevent accidental energization start-up, electricity, falls, employee training and combustible dust hazards.

These investigations also fall under the requirements of OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program. Initiated in the spring of 2010, SVEP is intended to focus on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations in one or more of the following circumstances: a fatality or catastrophe, industry operations or processes that expose workers to severe occupational hazards, employee exposure to hazards related to the potential releases of highly hazardous chemicals and all per-instance citation (egregious) enforcement actions. For more information on SVEP, visit

For a copy of the warning letter OSHA sent to grain elevator operators, visit http://www.osha/asst-sec/Grain_letter.html.

A copy of the Haasbach and the Hillsdale citations are available at

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its OSHA citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards can call OSHA’s North Aurora Office at 630-896-8700. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees.  OSHA’s role is to assure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

Editor’s Note: A fact sheet about the two cases follows this news release.

# # #


Fact Sheet on Haasbach LLC and Hillsdale Elevator Co.

Haasback Violation Description

  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued Haasbach 11 willful citations with penalties totaling $504,000. The employer failed to provide body harnesses and lifelines to prevent engulfment above the waist to each of four young workers and their supervisor. It also failed to train the workers on the hazards of moving grain, and to ensure that all mechanical equipment was shut down before the workers entered the bin on the two days that they worked there. Also alleged is a willful violation for directing workers to walk on the grain to make it flow. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements or plain indifference to worker safety and health.  The grain industry has long recognized these hazards and how to prevent workers from being engulfed.


  • Haasbach also has received 12 serious citations with penalties totaling $50,400 for additional violations of the Grain Handling, Lockout and Tagout and other standards, and one other-than serious citation with a $600 penalty for failing to provide a hazard communication program. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.  OSHA penalties for Haasbach total $555,000.


  • The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has assessed Haasbach LLC $68,125 in civil money penalties for violating the Child Labor standards of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The company employed two 14-year-olds and one 15-year-old in occupations involving warehousing and transportation. It employed two of these children in a hazardous occupation requiring them to climb 48 feet to enter a grain bin and one child in a hazardous occupation involving the operation of a power-driven hoisting device. The company also required all of the children to work more than the allowed number of work hours for minors.


  • The workers’ compensation carrier insuring Haasbach is Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co.


Hillsdale Violation Description


  • Hillsdale Elevator Co. has received 17 willful citations with penalties of $714,000. The citations allege eight instances of directing workers to enter bins, silos or tanks where a buildup of grain on the sides could fall and bury them. The citations also allege nine instances of failing to shut down and to lock out or take other measures to prevent mechanical equipment in the bin from endangering employees. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.


  • Hillsdale Elevator Co. also has received five serious citations alleging violations of the Grain Handling and Lockout standards with penalties totaling $15,000. OSHA discovered the violations during its investigation into the death of a 49-year-old worker who was engulfed by corn in a storage bin at the company’s facility in Geneseo, Ill. OSHA discovered additional violations during a later inspection of the company’s Annawan, Ill., facility. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.  OSHA penalties for Hillsdale total $729,000.


  • The workers’ compensation carrier insuring Hillsdale Elevator. is Westfield Insurance Co.

Additional OSHA Information

OSHA maintains safety and health topics pages for grain handling at and agricultural operations at

OSHA’s grain handling facilities standard includes a requirement that employers provide workers entering bins or tanks with appropriate personal protective equipment such as full body harnesses for easier removal in the event of an emergency. Providing proper protection and not allowing workers to walk or stand in products piled higher than the waist reduces the risk of workers sinking and suffocating. The standard is available at

U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at  The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.   

EPA Region 7 and 8 Host Meeting with State Agriculture Directors in Denver PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Kris Lancaster   
Monday, 24 January 2011 10:44

(Kansas City, Kan., Jan. 21, 2011) - EPA officials today hosted a meeting with the directors of state agriculture departments of  Iowa, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.  The meeting, held at EPA’s Region 8 building in Denver, Colo., provided a forum for dialogue on EPA programs and regulations as well as specific issues, interests and concerns of the agriculture sector.

EPA staff participants in the meeting included: Jim Martin, Region 8 Administrator; Karl Brooks, Region 7 Administrator; Josh Svaty, Region 7 Senior Adviser; and Damon Frizzell, Region 7 Agricultural Adviser.

“The agricultural community should be credited with taking significant steps to protect the environment while finding innovative ways to feed millions,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks. “Because of the broad impact that America’s farmers and ranchers have on everything from daily food prices to widespread environmental impacts to emerging renewable fuel technologies, it is important to have state agriculture directors as part of our decision making process.”

EPA recognizes that agricultural producers are on the frontline of environmental stewardship and are affected by many EPA programs.  Frequent meetings with state agriculture directors are a critical way for EPA to provide outreach and receive feedback on current issues and concerns. Specific topics of Friday’s meeting included Clean Water Act permits for pesticides, oil spill prevention and countermeasure rules, and air quality standards for particulate matter. Additional subjects included nutrient management and water quality and concentrated animal feeding operations.

# # #

USDA Designates Eight Counties in Iowa as Primary Natural Disaster Areas PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by USDA Communications Office   
Monday, 24 January 2011 09:51
WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 20, 2011 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated eight counties in Iowa as natural disaster areas because of losses caused by the combined effects of severe storms, excessive rain, flooding, flash flooding, hail, high winds and tornadoes that occurred May 1 – Sept. 30, 2010.
“President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to forage crops, pasture, corn, oats and soybeans, and we want to help,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses.”

The counties are:

Iowa                           Johnson                       Madison                      Sioux

Jackson                        Louisa                         Scott                          Washington

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Iowa also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous:

Adair                          Des Moines                 Keokuk                       Plymouth

Benton                        Dubuque                     Linn                           Polk

Cedar                          Guthrie                        Lyon                           Poweshiek

Cherokee                     Henry                          Muscatine                    Tama

Clarke                         Jefferson                     O'Brien                        Union

Clinton                        Jones                          Osceola                       Warren


Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Illinois and South Dakota also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous:


Carroll                Henderson          Jo Daviess          Mercer                Rock Island

South Dakota

Lincoln                        Union

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas Jan. 18, 2011, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

USDA also has made other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), which was approved as part of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008; the Emergency Conservation Program; Federal Crop Insurance; and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at

FSA news releases are available on FSA’s website at via the “News and Events” link.

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