LAHOOD AND USDOT RECOGNIZE COMMON SENSE AG ISSUES

Aug, 11, 2011  |  Today's News

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a notice that they will offer no further guidance to states on interpreting interstate commerce and implements of husbandry regulations.  Additionally, they have issued guidance that farmers operating under share-cropping agreements should continue to be exempt from CDL requirements if a State elects to adopt the exemption.

This is good news.

Secretary LaHood, an Illinois native, made this statement: “We have no intention of instituting onerous regulations on the hardworking farmers who feed our country and fuel our economy.  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.”   

Last night, LaHood’s staff met with Illinois farmers in Bloomington to further discuss the implications of these guidelines.  Having such an open line of communication is good news. Anne Ferro, USDOT Administrator, was on site at the farm north of Bloomington. Getting rule makers out of Washington and on the farm is an easy step that can really clear up misunderstandings.

Bill Christ, vice-chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and a farmer from Metamora attended the meeting. Christ said it was a great opportunity to have a conversation with the people in Washington that make decisions that impact farmers.

“Ms. Ferro was wonderful to speak with. She was really interested in learning about our farms and how we do what we do. She said that USDOT really does need input from the public, and in this case, farmers.

Obviously, the comments they received illustrated that the USDOT plans were off the mark in terms of how they really shouldn’t apply to many farmers. This type of on-farm visit and one-on-one conversation is really necessary to be sure that burdensome regulations don’t keep us from farming.

I really compliment Ms. Ferro and her staff for taking the time to come out and talk with us. Hopefully we can get more people in Washington out of their beltway and into the cornbelt so common sense enters into the decision process,” Christ said.

When the Illinois Department of Transportation decided to re-interpret an existing law that farmers hauling crops from their fields who were in a crop share agreement with landlords could be considered “for-hire” carriers and should not be exempt from CDL regulations, Illinois farmers were concerned. 

Because of your efforts to make legislators and the U.S. Department of Transportation aware of this issue, several interpretations were reconsidered as they relate to agriculture.

First, the interpretation of interstate commerce as it applies to the movement of farm products was reconsidered.  Should a farmer be considered an interstate carrier simply because there is a chance that his crop can be sold outside of the state?  IL Corn doesn’t believe so.  At this point, U.S DOT has not offered further guidance on this matter, but IL Corn will continue the education process.

Second, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration considered whether or not new guidance was needed on how implements of husbandry were classified.  Are they commercial vehicles?  Are they passenger vehicles?  FMCSA did not change their guidance on this issue either so current IL interpretations should stand.

On the most concerning issue, the crop share/for-hire issue, guidance was changed at the US DOT level, but we still must work with the IL DOT to adopt the USDOT interpretation.

“This opportunity to get together was sponsored by the Illinois Farm Bureau,” Christ added. “They did an excellent job of starting the dialogue and organizing the tour.”