Removal of sunset clause makes Implements of Husbandry laws permanent

Colleen Kottke

WISCONSIN - Laws governing farm equipment operation on Wisconsin roadways are now permanent due to a provision in the state budget that was passed in September.

An SUV illegally passes an combine in a no passing zone.

Included in the $76 billion spending plan was a provision spearheaded by state Senator Jerry Petrowski that removes the sunset clause that would have allowed Wisconsin’s Implements of Husbandry laws to expire on Jan. 1, 2020.

Petrowski, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, invested over 18 months working with agriculture stakeholders and local and county government officials as well as representatives from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to fashion Act 377 (that was subsequently passed in 2014).

"These laws were needed because the laws governing operation of agricultural equipment on roads hadn't been updated in over three decades, meanwhile the size of equipment had increased dramatically," Petrowski said.

Had the bill been allowed to sunset, Petrowski said it would have eliminated the local permits and weight variance created by the bill.

"If that happened farmers and local governments would have been right back to where we started, and I don't think anyone wants that," Petrowski said. "The sunset was supposed to act as a failsafe in case the new regulatory system caused unforeseen problems, which is hasn't."

As it stands, the new law allows implements of husbandry and agricultural commercial motor vehicles to operate up to 15 percent over axle or gross weight limits for other vehicles, but requires farmers to get local permits to run equipment that weighs more than that.

The Wisconsin senator says the bill was designed to balance the need for the ag community to continue to use modern efficient equipment with the need to protect roads and bridges.

"By requiring those permits, we allowed local government to route heavier traffic away from vulnerable structures and pavements, while still allowing farmers to get to and from their fields," Petrowski said.