Activist farmers score victory for common sense trucking regulations

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (USDOT) announced last Thursday that it would pursue no new trucking regulations for the agriculture industry at this time.

The announcement comes in the wake of a major grassroots campaign, with members of many farmer organizations, including Minnesota Corn Growers Association, communicating with lawmakers and officials at US Department of Transportation, to explain how proposed new rules would have adversely affected farmers. FMCSA said it received more than 1700 comments on the regulations, the majority of them favoring no new regulations.

“This is a major victory, and it goes to show how powerful it is when average citizens speak their minds and tell government officials about the unfair impacts of proposed regulations,” said Greg Schwarz, a farmer in Le Sueur and president of Minnesota Corn Growers Association. “We all should take a lesson from this and remember what we can do and how we can affect the outcomes of issues very important to farming just by each one of us taking on the responsibility to be an advocate for agriculture.”

These farmer advocates are not opposed to current regulations that provide for inspections to insure the safety of trucks and semi-trailers used to bring farm products to market. However, the proposed regulations would have required a commercial drivers license–the same rigorous licensing required in order to operate overland trucks for interstate shipping of products–not only for trucks but also farm machinery.

“There were two main worries with this,” said Curt Watson, a farmer in Renville and former president of MCGA, who took a leading role in the grassroots push to oppose the new rules. “Since CDLs are only available to drivers age 21 and older, this would prevent many capable older teens from playing the important role in their family farm operation of being an equipment operator. Also, farm labor at harvest and various other points of the growing season can be in short supply. To impose a CDL requirement would further strain the system and prevent farmers from moving grain and equipment in a timely way.”

The guidance statement released by US Department of Transportation is intended to make it clear to all states that they should not impose any additional requirements on farmers.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a press statement: “We have no intention of instituting onerous regulations on the hardworking farmers who feed our country and fuel our economy,” said Secretary Ray LaHood. “Farmers deserve to know that reasonable, common sense exemptions will continue to be consistently available to agricultural operations across the country, and that’s why we released this guidance.”

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