SALEM, Ohio — Transporting equipment or grain could become a major headache for producers if the federal Department of Transportation gets its way.
Farmers could be forced to obtain a commercial driver’s license, or CDL, if a current proposal moves forward. But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is saying safer roadways are the reasoning behind the proposed rule changes.
According to a statement from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a division of the federal Department of Transportation, the safety administration is not proposing new regulations for the farming community.
In the statement, Anne S. Ferro, administrator for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said in many cases farmers and farm equipment don’t fall under federal truck safety regulations when they are transporting products short distances, either within the farm or to a local market.
However, the lines of distinction aren’t always clear. So in May, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sought public feedback on how existing commercial truck safety regulations impact the agricultural community.
The comments were accepted between May and Aug. 1 and the feedback was reportedly significant.
Specifically, the safety administration is looking at the definition of interstate vs. intrastate, and how it should be defined when it comes to farmers.
For example, the safety administration is looking into whether or not grain being transported from the farm to the local elevator should be defined as “interstate commerce.”
Another area the safety administration is investigating is whether or not a farmer should be required to have a CDL when they are involved in crop sharing. Some farmers lease ground contingent on a crop share agreement where the landowner gets a portion of the harvest. The question is whether or not a CDL is required when the farmer is hauling grain that does not belong to them 100 percent.
The third issue being looked into by the safety administration is the definition of farm equipment and whether or not a commercial motor vehicle license is necessary to operate the equipment.
Numerous farm commodity groups and individuals submitted comments to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration about the proposal.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, were just two legislators speaking out about the proposal. Both legislators expressed their displeasure with the idea of requiring farmers to obtain commercial driver’s licenses.
The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation also submitted comments regarding the proposal.
Leah Finney, director of legal education, said the OFBF is against farmers being required to have a commercial driver’s license, and said the OFBF also commented about the definition of interstate vs. intrastate travel.
She said if the farmer is farming within the state of Ohio, then the definition should be intrastate.
“We don’t agree with the interpretation that if the grain is hauled to an elevator in the same state and it [the grain] is then sold outside of that state, then the travel should be considered interstate. The grain is leaving the farmer’s control and direction when they sell it,” Finney said.
The OFBF is also against requiring a producer to have a CDL if they are hauling grain that is part of a crop share agreement. This could mean that some of the grain being hauled belongs to the landowner in the crop share agreement.
“You are still considered the farmer. You grew it and harvested it,” said Finney.
She said the transportation to the elevator is part of the lease agreement.
“It doesn’t change the fact you grew it and harvested it,” said Finney.
The safety administration is also addressing the definition of farm equipment and when a CDL is necessary.
Finney said the OFBF defines farm machinery as equipment not used for transportation.
“Anything in Ohio considered farm machinery should be considered implements of husbandry,” she said.
The definition would include combines, trailers for hauling produce, balers, spreaders, agriculture tractors and tillage equipment.
The safety administration will review all comments submitted, and expects to release the results of the comment period in September.
Issues in CDL regulation
• Distinguishing interstate vs. intrastate
• Applicability of the CDL rules to farmers operating under a crop share farm lease agreement
• Implements of husbandry definitions
(Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)