New regulations could threaten farm transportation


I'm not sure if this is the right spot for this. Please contact your Congress Critters on this important issue. Please spread the word.
hug, Brandi

Jul 25 2011

New regulations could threaten farm transportation

Category: Agriculture | Food | General | Texas AgricultureTXFB @ 23:19
By Dane and Robin Sanders
This morning at breakfast, our son informed us that he couldn’t wait until harvest time so that he could go with me to help tarp cotton modules and clean up around the module builders. Robin and I laughed knowing that those two jobs are definitely not the cleanest or most fun, but they all have to be done. It was nice hearing our son already wanting to help out on the farm and finding joy in hard work.
We feel fortunate that we are able to raise our children on our family farm where we can teach them the value of hard work and perseverance. This is what our family has done for generations.
I remember as a little boy, dreaming of the day that my father would let me drive a tractor all by myself. I have a feeling that my dad looked forward to that time as well because I was pretty cheap labor—if I didn’t tear anything up. From the time I was 8 or 9, I drove a tractor or combine all summer. When my classmates were playing baseball, I was farming with my dad and loving it.
I wouldn’t trade that time with him for anything in the world. I learned that if I worked hard and didn’t give up I could accomplish a lot, and sometimes, if the weather and markets cooperated, you even got paid for it.
I know that farm kids all across the country share a story similar to this one. Unfortunately, if the United States Department of Transportation has its way, a lot of what I just described won’t be possible or legal.
The United States Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is considering requiring anyone operating farm equipment to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The administration recently closed public comment on three questions:
1. Whether agriculture is intra- or interstate commerce.
2. The transportation implications regarding the factors states use in deciding whether farm vehicle drivers transporting agricultural commodities, farm supplies and equipment as part of a crop share agreement are subject to the CDL regulations.
3. Whether off-road farm equipment or implements of husbandry operated on public roads for limited distances are considered commercial motor vehicles, and therefore, must drivers obtain a CDL?
The answer to these questions will help shape the next highway bill that Congress is beginning to consider. Changes to existing laws and regulations could potentially change the face of agriculture. Many farm and ranch employees—if not most—do not have a CDL. If everyone operating farm equipment is required to have a CDL, who will have to pay for it? The answer probably is the farmer. This would add additional expense and paperwork to an already heavily regulated group of business people. Not all farm employees will be able to obtain a CDL or would want to obtain one.
Currently during harvest, farmers are allowed to work as many hours as needed to get the crop out of the field. If farm equipment is considered commercial and the drivers have to have a CDL, they would have to abide by commercial transportation laws and regulations. This would require drivers to carry logbooks keeping up with their hours and only be able to work for a set amount of hours without resting. Farmers would have to hire additional employees, already difficult to find, to get the crop harvested in a timely fashion. Or, it would take longer to get the crop out of the field. This would add additional expense and cause farmers to leave a crop in the field longer at the mercy of the weather.
Another important impact would be that farm youth would not be able to legally drive a tractor until they are 18 years old, the age when they can apply for a CDL. Most family farms rely on family members, including their children, to operate machinery in order to reduce labor costs and be able to make a profit.
In our area, many high school kids from non-farm families are employed by farmers in the summertime. This benefits both the farmer and the community. As a teenager working on our family farm, I earned enough money to purchase my first vehicle. This is also how I helped save and pay for college. Those fond memories that I described earlier might not be possible for my children if these changes are made.
I encourage farmers and ranchers to contact their Congressmen and let them know the potential changes are bad ideas.
Editor’s note: Dane and Robin Sanders farm cotton and wheat and run beef cattle near Floydada.


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