Although the Highway Bill (S.1813) has been a victim of partisan politics, according toNational Cattlemen’s Beef Association Associate Director of Legislative Affairs Kent Bacus, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reached an agreement on the consideration of a series of amendments to the Highway Bill. Two of those amendments, which passed, are of particular importance for farm and ranch families. Specifically, an amendment brought forth by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) will exempt drivers of farm vehicles from having to acquire a commercial driver’s license. Another amendment, introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), will waive hours of service restrictions during harvest seasons.
“Farmers and ranchers are not professional truck drivers and shouldn’t be treated as such. Hauling livestock to market two times a year is hardly the same as hauling goods across the country on a daily basis. Subjecting family farmers and ranchers to costly and requirements is an unnecessary burden we cannot afford,” said Bacus. “NCBA and its members were pleased to see the U.S. Senate approve two commonsense amendments that differentiate agriculture from commercial transportation.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation also supports the measures to make certain farm vehicles exempt from federal motor vehicle regulations that are appropriately aimed at the long-haul trucking industry.
The first amendment, introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), would provide an exemption for farm trucks. That measure is co-sponsored by Sens. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). If based solely on weight limits, even a one-ton pickup truck pulling a trailer could be subject to the long-haul regulations.
“The amendment is important because some states exempt farm vehicles while others do not,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Under the current situation, merely the act of crossing state lines can trigger conflicting requirements for some farmers who are doing nothing more than hauling their own crop. These regulations can be particularly burdensome for farmers and ranchers living in counties bordering another state where their best market might be just across the state line.”
The second Farm Bureau-supported amendment to S. 1813 would exempt certain farm truck drivers from regulations on maximum driving and on-duty times during harvest and planting seasons. It is sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).
“This measure is particularly crucial during the two busiest times of a farmer’s year,” Stallman said.
The amendment would apply to drivers transporting agricultural commodities within 100 miles of the farm that produced them, or those carrying farm supplies for agricultural purposes within 100 miles of the wholesale or retail distribution point. Each state would determine its own planting and harvest periods.
According to the U.S. House of Representatives, it is not moving forward with its version of the Highway Bill. Instead, the House will take up the two-year Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.), which was debated in the Senate today. Once the Senate concludes consideration of the amendments, the bipartisan legislation will be brought up for consideration this week. The bill will then move to the House for consideration.