In Late May, the DOT proposed a rule change for farm equipment, and if it this allowed to take effect, it will place significant regulatory pressure on small farms and family farms all across America – costing them thousands of dollars and possibly forcing many of them out of business. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), part of the Department of Transportation (DOT), wants new standards that would require all farmers and everyone on the farm to obtain a CDL (Commercial Drivers License) in order to operate any farming equipment. The agency is going to accomplish this by reclassifying all farm vehicles and implements as Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs).
(It is also important to note here that DOT Secretary Ray LaHood holds a seat on the newly created White House Rural Council. A powerful group whose members have ties to George Soros and The Center For American Progress.)
The move by the DOT appears to be “legislation through regulation.” By reclassifying all farm vehicles and implements as Commercial Vehicles, the federal government will now be able to claim regulatory control over the estimated 800,000 farm workers in America, at the same time, overriding the rights of the states.
The proposed change also means ANYONE driving a tractor or operating any piece of motorized farming equipment would be forced to pass the same rigorous tests and fill out the same detailed forms and diaries required of semi-tractor trailer drivers. This reclassification would bury small farms and family farms in regulation and paperwork.
Some of the additional paperwork and regulation required:
•Detailed logs would need to be kept by all drivers – hours worked, miles traveled, etc.
•Vehicles would have to display DOT numbers
•Drivers would need to pass a physical as well as a drug test – every two years.
The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF) is one of many farm organizations not happy about the idea and has sent the DOT a letter expressing this opinion:
“WFBF opposes any change in statue or regulatory authority that would reclassify implements of husbandry or other farm equipment as Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs)”
WFBF Director of Governmental Relations Karen Gefvert continues, explaining the excessive cost to farmers if this allowed to move forward:
“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.”
Additionally, Illinois farmers believe this regulation will also force new restrictions on trucks used in crop-share hauling. (One estimate claims more than 30% of Illinois farmers utilize shared land.) These crop-share trucks are typically limited-use vehicles that often travel fewer than 3000 miles each year, mainly hauling crops from the fields to nearby grain elevators. To require them to follow the same rules as semis would also mean a farmer would be forced to purchase substantial insurance.
The Hancock Journal-Pilot covered the story:
Earlier this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) began to define crop-share tenant farmers as “for-hire“ carriers and implements of husbandry as ”commercial motor vehicles.“ The ”for-hire” designation for crop-share tenant farmers would have a dramatic effect on farmers because it voids exemptions from the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) program and would require a minimum of $750,000 in insurance coverage for the farmer.
The DOT is holding hearings for public comment on the topic, but only through Monday, August 1st and farmers all across the country are rightfully concerned. No matter what the feedback is from the people who actually grow the food, it appears that the DOT’s mind is made up. Just last week, DOT Administrator Anna Ferro posted an Op-Ed addressing the controversial regulation. The opinion piece closes with this statement:
Everyone in this Administration – from President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary LaHood on down – is committed to the long-term success of America’s agricultural industry. In many ways, agriculture is the backbone of our economy – feeding hundreds of millions of Americans and billions more around the world. As the largest user of freight transportation in the nation, the agricultural industry is also one of USDOT’s most important constituents. We hope that this comment period is the start of a new and productive relationship. We may not ultimately agree on every issue, but we will always listen — and do our best to help America’s farmers succeed.
The FMCSA has said their intent is to create uniformity in way federal safety regulations are carried out across America. The farming community and many of the states that would be affected by this change feel differently. Almost to a man, the farming community believes this to be a local issue, best handled by state governments, and not some Washington DC agency.