Farm Bureau opposes federal transportation changes
The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF) has weighed in on three proposals from the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that could negatively impact farmers' ability to transport crops and livestock.
"WFBF opposes any change in statue or regulatory authority that would reclassify implements of husbandry or other farm equipment as Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs)," reads the letter Farm Bureau submitted to the DOT on June 28.
The letter comes in response to several DOT proposals aimed at reclassifying agricultural implements as CMVs, moves that would lead to unnecessary regulatory burden and financial hardship to Wisconsin's farmers, according to WFBF Director of Governmental Relations Karen Gefvert.
"It is unfounded on the premise of safety concerns that farm machinery owners and operators be federally mandated to acquire a CDL, display DOT numbers, register owners' or farm name, limit mileage, obtain a medical card for the driver or maintain hours of service records," wrote Gefvert.
Farm Bureau holds that farm implements should not be reclassified as CMVs.
Gefvert noted that current federal policy allows individual states to exempt farmers from CDL requirements. Farm Bureau maintains that this authority should be retained by individual states.
"States are more knowledgeable about their individualized agricultural and transportation related issues, as well as the need for regulatory oversight and implementation within their specified state," wrote Gefvert.
Another DOT proposal would classify all agricultural commodities delivered to a processor as interstate commerce because of the potential for the crop to eventually leave the state. Farm Bureau opposes this change because the transaction between the farmer and the processor (located in the same state) is not an interstate transaction, nor should it be considered one due to the possibility for that crop to eventually be sold elsewhere by the processor.
"The proposed guidance by the FMCSA would result in an initial increased cost to each Wisconsin farmer and employee of $124 just for the CDL license, permit and test; not to mention the time and cost for the behind-the-wheel training that is several thousand dollars," wrote Gefvert.
A third proposal leading to similar hurdles for Wisconsin farmers would reclassify crop share agreements as "for-hire" commercial carriers.
WFBF calls the proposal "overreaching and unnecessary," noting that crop share arrangements are highly variable throughout the state.
Gefvert noted in her letter that the safety implications implicit for farmers involved in a crop-share agreements are not different than for a farmer operating land on a cash rent basis. As a result, the method of transportation and regulation overseeing that transportation should also be no different.
"Farmers throughout the state are constantly concerned about safety when operating machinery on roadways during their farming operations," wrote Gefvert. "Farmer's focus on machinery safety helps to keep our families, communities and neighbors safe as they travel throughout the great state of Wisconsin."