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Newsletter
Volume 186
May 1, 2019

Happy Retirement, Carol!

We'd like to wish our long-time employee, Carol Higdon, the very best in her retirement after nearly 20 years of working at Asmark.  Carol started her career with Asmark in the spring of 1999 and was the bookkeeper in the early days, and then transitioned into the training department where she worked for the last ten years.  Most will know Carol as the person who helps ensure success with scanning/uploading of training certificates. She was instrumental in helping create efficiencies for both clients and our own internal processes with the electronic training certificates return process.

Carol has been one of the most dedicated, trustworthy and hardworking employees we've had the pleasure to have as part of the Asmark family.  Not only is she fun to work with, she sets an amazing example for other employees, provides great service to our clients and will be missed by all.  She and her husband of almost 41 years plan to travel, spend time with friends and family, and enjoy the next season of life relaxing and having fun.  We greatly appreciate all the years of service Carol has given us and wish her a long, happy and healthy retirement!

Far West Agribusiness Association Celebrates 60 Years

Congratulations to our friends at the Far West Agribusiness Association (FWAA) as they celebrate 60 years in serving the agricultural industry!  Far West plays a key role in helping make sure the interests of all their member companies are represented as they speak out on their behalf both in their state capitols and in Washington, D.C.  They also partner with other agricultural groups when there are larger issues to be tackled - making all of the organizations stronger and more effective.

The Asmark Institute works to support the retail agricultural industry through a very special partnership with FWAA and we believe membership and participation in your state association is more important now than ever before.  We are proud to be affiliated with the Far West Agribusiness Association and we look forward to another 60 years in continuing this great partnership.

New for 2019: Drug and Alcohol Training Video

Plans are underway for the Asmark DVD Team to do a complete overhaul on the Drug and Alcohol Training Video this year. The new video will be designed to teach supervisors to identify circumstances and indicators that may create reasonable suspicion that a driver is using, or under the influence of, alcohol or drugs and will satisfy the DOT requirement found in 49 CFR 382.603. The regulation requires all supervisors of commercial motor vehicle drivers, who operate vehicles that require a commercial driver license, to take 60 minutes of training on the symptoms of alcohol abuse and another 60 minutes of training on the symptoms of controlled substances use (120 minutes in total).

To help make the new video as educational, helpful and interesting as possible, Asmark’s DVD Team is seeking men and women who have struggled with drug and/or alcohol addiction in the past and are willing to tell their story. The best way for a manager to understand what measures an addict will take to hide an addiction is to learn from someone who has been there before. If you or someone you know is interested in helping with this new video, please contact Brian Mason at 270-926-4600 Ext. 230 or brian@asmark.org.

DOT Amends Drug Testing Rule

DOT published a final rule that makes technical corrections to the regulations governing drug testing for safety-sensitive employees to ensure consistency with recent amendments made to DOT’s "Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs."

This reflects added requirements for testing for oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone to DOT-regulated drug testing programs.  The new changes make it necessary to refer to these substances, as well as morphine, 6-acetylmorphine and codeine by the term "opioids" rather than "opiates."

FieldWatch Adds New Technologies

In 2019, FieldWatch, Inc., will launch two new technologies to add to its existing tools to help applicators, growers and beekeepers communicate about the locations of crops and hives.  CropCheck is a new pilot program that enables voluntary communication between row crop producers and pesticide applicators.  Producers may submit site information to the registry and pesticide applicators can access the information to help determine the scope and location of organic crops or crops not tolerant to herbicides to help prevent damage from spraying.  Another new feature will allow registered applicators to customize their experience by adding their own body of notes with specific site information, which can reference "out-of-scope" data, such as locations of beehives, private gardens or crops not tolerant to herbicides.

"After a very successful 2018 when we celebrated our 10-year anniversary, we're excited for more innovations and further growth this year," Stephanie Regagnon, CEO, FieldWatch, said in a news release.  "Our goal is to continue to evolve our online mapping system, so it can address the needs of more agriculture stakeholders in a more user-friendly way."

Web Browsers - The Battle Continues

Web browsers are one of the most important pieces of software on your computer, as they are used daily to connect us online.  Websites are the platform that connect a business with its clients, but the browser is what bridges that communication.  There are three major browsers out there now, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer (soon to be the new Edge).

For our website, we currently recommend the use of Firefox.  It has similar qualities of the other popular browsers such as speed and reliability, but what sets Firefox apart is its privacy and security add-ons. Firefox is less invasive when it comes to tracking and due to the nature of our business and use of our website to retrieve and display data, we are cautious and deliberate when it comes to recommending web browsers. Currently, Firefox provides more privacy than the other browsers out there today.

Another browser to consider would be Google Chrome.  In the past we have not supported Google Chrome due to its invasive tracking system, auto-fill capabilities and general disregard for web standards that caused our web pages not to display correctly.  However, after steps were taken to enhance the security along with the web standard itself changing, we are working towards making a few modifications on our website so that Google Chrome can be used in the near future.  A concern we have with Google Chrome is there is talk that the auto-fill feature is being made predictive instead of reactive, which means as you type, the browser will try to guess what you mean before you finish and fill in data for you.  This can be helpful at home when you're trying to order something from Amazon, but in our line of business when you're dealing with Federally required reports - it can cause much more harm than help.

Internet Explorer is no longer being supported or kept up with by programmers, which means it is out of date and will not be functional in the near future.  The replacement for Internet Explorer is Edge, which has already been released once but had so many kinks that it had to be re-built from the ground up.  From our research, Edge will not be as reliable as Internet Explorer was, but will likely share similar qualities to Google Chrome.  The official release of the chromium-based Edge is expected soon and a significant Firefox update is expected later this year as well.  As web browsers continue to evolve and compete, the battle will continue.  Stay tuned!

DOT Medical Certification Program Under Audit

U.S. DOT's Office of Inspector General announced it is opening an audit to evaluate the DOT medical certification program.  This comes after criminal charges against medical examiners who issued fraudulent medical certificates and a rise in motor carrier fatalities.  The objectives of the audit will be to evaluate the FMCSA’s procedures for oversight of its medical certificate program and validating information in the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.  Fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses grew from 4,397 in 2012 to 4,879 in 2017, an 11 percent increase.

Emergency Response Refresher Training Heading Your Way!

For our clients who have already completed the 4-day Emergency Response to Agricultural Incidents course, watch your mail for your personalized invitation to attend the 8-hour Refresher Course.  This summer we are offering training at 58 remote locations throughout the U.S. There are several location changes this year, so please review the location calendar closely to find a location near you.

This course has been a great success since beginning in 2001 when there were only 17 of these classes offered throughout the U.S.  Today more than 1,700 people are trained annually with just over 70 choices of Refresher Training locations.  Classes are limited to 30 participants, so register today to ensure you get the date and location most convenient for you.

2018 EPA Enforcement Results

U.S. EPA has announced the results of 10,612 inspections and evaluations conducted in fiscal year 2018.  This continues a downward trend in the overall number of inspections for the year for 6 consecutive years and is about half the number of inspections that were conducted in 2010.  The civil penalties assessed were the lowest in the last 11 years at $69.47 million, while the number of criminal cases opened showed a slight increase over 2017.  One thing to keep in mind is that EPA did raise civil penalties by 2.52 percent in February, bringing many Resource Conservations and Recovery Act violations up to $99,681 per day.  Click here for more detail on the results.

Expect OSHA Inspections to Increase

As a new crop of OSHA agents complete training, job-site inspections are expected to increase.  U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta says OSHA hired 76 new inspectors in fiscal year 2018 and that it would be anywhere from a year to three years before they will be ready to conduct field inspections on their own depending on their prior experience and the complexity of inspections they may carry out.

OSHA conducted 32,000 inspections each year in 2017 and 2018, an increase from 2016 figures.  Budget requests for 2020 are $557 million, an increase from last year, which would pay for additional staff, including 30 additional compliance officers and five more whistleblower investigators.  In addition, in fiscal year 2018, OSHA personnel made 26,362 compliance assistance visits covering more than 970,000 workers and ensuring that 135,021 hazards were identified or corrected.

It's Time to Register With ResponsibleAg

More than 2,720 facilities have registered with the ResponsibleAg Certification Program, with 1,410 facilities already receiving their certification. We encourage you to register your facilities today! For more information and to register, go to: www.responsibleag.org

Fraudulent Training in the News

OSHA recently released a statement in response to the conviction of a New Jersey safety trainer who had sold over a hundred fraudulent training cards to workers.  In it, OSHA Regional Administrator Richard Mendelson stated, "Falsifying documents not only undermines the program, it fails to protect workers on the job. OSHA will refer fraudulent activity to the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General, and trainers caught falsifying information will be subject to criminal prosecution."

Safety training is not something to cut corners on, it’s not about the money or time spent - it's about training employees to be safe, having a safe work place, creating a safety culture and ensuring employees go home safely to their families at the end of each day.

The quality of training offered through the Asmark Institute's Signature Training Courses is considered the best in the country and is geared specifically toward the ag industry.  In many cases, the courses have been developed with input from different State and Federal regulatory agencies, including OSHA, EPA and DOT, on an advisory level. Our state-of-the-art equipped training centers, which include hands-on classroom props and materials, provide an authentic learning experience for participants.  With an average of 38+ years of experience, our instructors are professionals, the very best in their fields, whose goal is to arm participants with the training needed to keep them safe, whether identifying and preventing an unsafe situation or reacting to one.

Oregon Proposes Hazardous Waste Fee Increase

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) is proposing to increase hazardous waste fees to offset an impending deficit of $1.2 to $1.5 million in 2019-2021.  The proposed fee increase will be used to pay for current staffing levels, including vacancies.  The proposal does not increase the number of staff or services.  ODEQ last increased hazardous waste fees in 2007.  If approved, the new fees will start July 1, 2019 and will be phased in over six years.  Click here for more information on this proposed rule-making.

National Labor Law Poster Updates

Considering the magnitude of state and federal agencies in existence today, it’s no surprise that labor laws are constantly changing.  The Federal Wage and Labor Law Institute (FWLLI) tracks these updates for us and we provide results for you.  Wondering if you need a poster update?  Click here to check for the latest Federal and/or State updates to the labor law posters.

Happy Retirement, Carol!

We'd like to wish our long-time employee, Carol Higdon, the very best in her retirement after nearly 20 years of working at Asmark.  Carol started her career with Asmark in the spring of 1999 and was the bookkeeper in the early days, and then transitioned into the training department where she worked for the last ten years.  Most will know Carol as the person who helps ensure success with scanning/uploading of training certificates. She was instrumental in helping create efficiencies for both clients and our own internal processes with the electronic training certificates return process.

Carol has been one of the most dedicated, trustworthy and hardworking employees we've had the pleasure to have as part of the Asmark family.  Not only is she fun to work with, she sets an amazing example for other employees, provides great service to our clients and will be missed by all.  She and her husband of almost 41 years plan to travel, spend time with friends and family, and enjoy the next season of life relaxing and having fun.  We greatly appreciate all the years of service Carol has given us and wish her a long, happy and healthy retirement!

Far West Agribusiness Association Celebrates 60 Years

Congratulations to our friends at the Far West Agribusiness Association (FWAA) as they celebrate 60 years in serving the agricultural industry!  Far West plays a key role in helping make sure the interests of all their member companies are represented as they speak out on their behalf both in their state capitols and in Washington, D.C.  They also partner with other agricultural groups when there are larger issues to be tackled - making all of the organizations stronger and more effective.

The Asmark Institute works to support the retail agricultural industry through a very special partnership with FWAA and we believe membership and participation in your state association is more important now than ever before.  We are proud to be affiliated with the Far West Agribusiness Association and we look forward to another 60 years in continuing this great partnership.

New for 2019: Drug and Alcohol Training Video

Plans are underway for the Asmark DVD Team to do a complete overhaul on the Drug and Alcohol Training Video this year. The new video will be designed to teach supervisors to identify circumstances and indicators that may create reasonable suspicion that a driver is using, or under the influence of, alcohol or drugs and will satisfy the DOT requirement found in 49 CFR 382.603. The regulation requires all supervisors of commercial motor vehicle drivers, who operate vehicles that require a commercial driver license, to take 60 minutes of training on the symptoms of alcohol abuse and another 60 minutes of training on the symptoms of controlled substances use (120 minutes in total).

To help make the new video as educational, helpful and interesting as possible, Asmark’s DVD Team is seeking men and women who have struggled with drug and/or alcohol addiction in the past and are willing to tell their story. The best way for a manager to understand what measures an addict will take to hide an addiction is to learn from someone who has been there before. If you or someone you know is interested in helping with this new video, please contact Brian Mason at 270-926-4600 Ext. 230 or brian@asmark.org.

DOT Amends Drug Testing Rule

DOT published a final rule that makes technical corrections to the regulations governing drug testing for safety-sensitive employees to ensure consistency with recent amendments made to DOT’s "Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs."

This reflects added requirements for testing for oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone to DOT-regulated drug testing programs.  The new changes make it necessary to refer to these substances, as well as morphine, 6-acetylmorphine and codeine by the term "opioids" rather than "opiates."

FieldWatch Adds New Technologies

In 2019, FieldWatch, Inc., will launch two new technologies to add to its existing tools to help applicators, growers and beekeepers communicate about the locations of crops and hives.  CropCheck is a new pilot program that enables voluntary communication between row crop producers and pesticide applicators.  Producers may submit site information to the registry and pesticide applicators can access the information to help determine the scope and location of organic crops or crops not tolerant to herbicides to help prevent damage from spraying.  Another new feature will allow registered applicators to customize their experience by adding their own body of notes with specific site information, which can reference "out-of-scope" data, such as locations of beehives, private gardens or crops not tolerant to herbicides.

"After a very successful 2018 when we celebrated our 10-year anniversary, we're excited for more innovations and further growth this year," Stephanie Regagnon, CEO, FieldWatch, said in a news release.  "Our goal is to continue to evolve our online mapping system, so it can address the needs of more agriculture stakeholders in a more user-friendly way."

Web Browsers - The Battle Continues

Web browsers are one of the most important pieces of software on your computer, as they are used daily to connect us online.  Websites are the platform that connect a business with its clients, but the browser is what bridges that communication.  There are three major browsers out there now, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer (soon to be the new Edge).

For our website, we currently recommend the use of Firefox.  It has similar qualities of the other popular browsers such as speed and reliability, but what sets Firefox apart is its privacy and security add-ons. Firefox is less invasive when it comes to tracking and due to the nature of our business and use of our website to retrieve and display data, we are cautious and deliberate when it comes to recommending web browsers. Currently, Firefox provides more privacy than the other browsers out there today.

Another browser to consider would be Google Chrome.  In the past we have not supported Google Chrome due to its invasive tracking system, auto-fill capabilities and general disregard for web standards that caused our web pages not to display correctly.  However, after steps were taken to enhance the security along with the web standard itself changing, we are working towards making a few modifications on our website so that Google Chrome can be used in the near future.  A concern we have with Google Chrome is there is talk that the auto-fill feature is being made predictive instead of reactive, which means as you type, the browser will try to guess what you mean before you finish and fill in data for you.  This can be helpful at home when you're trying to order something from Amazon, but in our line of business when you're dealing with Federally required reports - it can cause much more harm than help.

Internet Explorer is no longer being supported or kept up with by programmers, which means it is out of date and will not be functional in the near future.  The replacement for Internet Explorer is Edge, which has already been released once but had so many kinks that it had to be re-built from the ground up.  From our research, Edge will not be as reliable as Internet Explorer was, but will likely share similar qualities to Google Chrome.  The official release of the chromium-based Edge is expected soon and a significant Firefox update is expected later this year as well.  As web browsers continue to evolve and compete, the battle will continue.  Stay tuned!

DOT Medical Certification Program Under Audit

U.S. DOT's Office of Inspector General announced it is opening an audit to evaluate the DOT medical certification program.  This comes after criminal charges against medical examiners who issued fraudulent medical certificates and a rise in motor carrier fatalities.  The objectives of the audit will be to evaluate the FMCSA’s procedures for oversight of its medical certificate program and validating information in the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.  Fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses grew from 4,397 in 2012 to 4,879 in 2017, an 11 percent increase.

Emergency Response Refresher Training Heading Your Way!

For our clients who have already completed the 4-day Emergency Response to Agricultural Incidents course, watch your mail for your personalized invitation to attend the 8-hour Refresher Course.  This summer we are offering training at 58 remote locations throughout the U.S. There are several location changes this year, so please review the location calendar closely to find a location near you.

This course has been a great success since beginning in 2001 when there were only 17 of these classes offered throughout the U.S.  Today more than 1,700 people are trained annually with just over 70 choices of Refresher Training locations.  Classes are limited to 30 participants, so register today to ensure you get the date and location most convenient for you.

2018 EPA Enforcement Results

U.S. EPA has announced the results of 10,612 inspections and evaluations conducted in fiscal year 2018.  This continues a downward trend in the overall number of inspections for the year for 6 consecutive years and is about half the number of inspections that were conducted in 2010.  The civil penalties assessed were the lowest in the last 11 years at $69.47 million, while the number of criminal cases opened showed a slight increase over 2017.  One thing to keep in mind is that EPA did raise civil penalties by 2.52 percent in February, bringing many Resource Conservations and Recovery Act violations up to $99,681 per day.  Click here for more detail on the results.

Expect OSHA Inspections to Increase

As a new crop of OSHA agents complete training, job-site inspections are expected to increase.  U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta says OSHA hired 76 new inspectors in fiscal year 2018 and that it would be anywhere from a year to three years before they will be ready to conduct field inspections on their own depending on their prior experience and the complexity of inspections they may carry out.

OSHA conducted 32,000 inspections each year in 2017 and 2018, an increase from 2016 figures.  Budget requests for 2020 are $557 million, an increase from last year, which would pay for additional staff, including 30 additional compliance officers and five more whistleblower investigators.  In addition, in fiscal year 2018, OSHA personnel made 26,362 compliance assistance visits covering more than 970,000 workers and ensuring that 135,021 hazards were identified or corrected.

It's Time to Register With ResponsibleAg

More than 2,720 facilities have registered with the ResponsibleAg Certification Program, with 1,410 facilities already receiving their certification. We encourage you to register your facilities today! For more information and to register, go to: www.responsibleag.org

Fraudulent Training in the News

OSHA recently released a statement in response to the conviction of a New Jersey safety trainer who had sold over a hundred fraudulent training cards to workers.  In it, OSHA Regional Administrator Richard Mendelson stated, "Falsifying documents not only undermines the program, it fails to protect workers on the job. OSHA will refer fraudulent activity to the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General, and trainers caught falsifying information will be subject to criminal prosecution."

Safety training is not something to cut corners on, it’s not about the money or time spent - it's about training employees to be safe, having a safe work place, creating a safety culture and ensuring employees go home safely to their families at the end of each day.

The quality of training offered through the Asmark Institute's Signature Training Courses is considered the best in the country and is geared specifically toward the ag industry.  In many cases, the courses have been developed with input from different State and Federal regulatory agencies, including OSHA, EPA and DOT, on an advisory level. Our state-of-the-art equipped training centers, which include hands-on classroom props and materials, provide an authentic learning experience for participants.  With an average of 38+ years of experience, our instructors are professionals, the very best in their fields, whose goal is to arm participants with the training needed to keep them safe, whether identifying and preventing an unsafe situation or reacting to one.

Oregon Proposes Hazardous Waste Fee Increase

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) is proposing to increase hazardous waste fees to offset an impending deficit of $1.2 to $1.5 million in 2019-2021.  The proposed fee increase will be used to pay for current staffing levels, including vacancies.  The proposal does not increase the number of staff or services.  ODEQ last increased hazardous waste fees in 2007.  If approved, the new fees will start July 1, 2019 and will be phased in over six years.  Click here for more information on this proposed rule-making.

National Labor Law Poster Updates

Considering the magnitude of state and federal agencies in existence today, it’s no surprise that labor laws are constantly changing.  The Federal Wage and Labor Law Institute (FWLLI) tracks these updates for us and we provide results for you.  Wondering if you need a poster update?  Click here to check for the latest Federal and/or State updates to the labor law posters.
Asmark Institute, Inc. This information is believed to be reliable by the Asmark Institute, however, because of constantly changing government regulations, interpretations and applicability or the possibility of human, mechanical or computer error, the Asmark Institute does not guarantee the information as suitable for any particular purpose.