Pa. farmers hammered by DOT regs

(March 3, 2010: Read an update on this story here.)

By DARRIN YOUKER
Contributing Writer

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Like many farmers in Mercer County, Pa., Enos Troyer relies on his children to help with the busy times of spring planting and fall harvest. But, if federal regulators have their say, anyone operating a tractor in Pennsylvania must be over 18.

That has a number of Keystone State farmers worried as planting time approaches.

Proposed regs

The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed a series of regulations aimed at operators of farm equipment in Pennsylvania. Those regulations would require farmers to keep logs, prohibit anyone under 18 from working a tractor, and anyone operating a tractor or other farm equipment would need a medical certificate.

These proposed regulations, which are set to go into effect March 1, would treat farmers much like interstate truckers, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has said. The organization is lobbying federal lawmakers to overturn the regulations.

Officials with the USDOT did not return phone calls seeking comments.

Burden for many

For Troyer, and other Mercer County farmers, the regulations will be cumbersome, if not impossible to comply with.

“I’ve got children that are under 18 that are old enough to handle a tractor,” said Troyer, who farms 300 acres near Greenville. “I depend on family. I’ve got a daughter who is 15 and she is going to help me out this year with the planting.”

Norm Morrison, a member of the Mercer County Farm Bureau, said he’s been reaching out to Amish farmers in the area to let them know about the proposals.

The Amish farmers in the region, many of whom use gas-powered tractors, rely on their children for help. The federal government’s regulation will cripple local operations, Morrison said.

“Those kids work on the farm as soon as they are able to work a tractor,” he said. “Not being able to put a person under the age of 18 on a tractor is one of the most ridiculous hoops to jump through.”

Why ag focus?

Carl Shaffer, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said Pennsylvania is being singled out with these regulations because of a recent federal review of the state’s motor carrier standards.

Regulators in the USDOT have threatened to withhold highway funding to Pennsylvania if these regulations are not enforced, Shaffer said.

“You are putting undue stress on our farmers,” he said.

Requiring medical certificates, and asking farmers to keep log books of the time they’ve spent traveling on the road, are unnecessary regulations that put a burden on farmers, Shaffer said.

No common sense

However, the most cumbersome regulation will be the one that does not allow farm children to help on equipment, Shaffer said.

“Anyone with a family farm, during the peak times of the year, the children help out,” Shaffer said. “They are the future of agriculture and they are part of the family business.”

The state farm bureau is actively lobbying Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation to overturn the regulations. Pennsylvania farmers are simply unprepared to meet these new mandates, he said.

“Like most things in government, until a crisis hits, no one wants to react,” he said. “Just getting someone to act is difficult.”

Not fair

Sam Weaver, a Mercer County grain farmer, said he does not understand why Pennsylvania is being singled out for the enforcement of these new regulations.

Weaver’s 1,000-acre farm is located near the border with Ohio, and some of his land abuts the state line.

Farmers in the Buckeye State will not have to follow the same rules as those in Pennsylvania, Weaver said. That is simply unfair, he said.

“They put in laws that you simply can’t obey. You either ignore them or go out of business,” he said.

Weaver has three teenagers who all pitch in and help with the day-to-day operations on the farm. Weaver said he could not afford to hire help if his children cannot work on the farm driving equipment.

“The people this affects have no say,” he said.

Here’s a look at what the federal government has proposed:

– Age restrictions: No one under the age of 18 will be able to drive a farm vehicle, including implements, with a combined weight of more than 17,000 pounds.

– Medical certification: Drivers must receive a valid medical certificate to determine if they are physically qualified to drive. Drivers of farm vehicles weighing more than 17,000 pounds will also need a certification whenever the truck is operated more than 150 miles from the farm.

– Driver’s logs: Drivers will be subject to similar hours of service as trucking companies. Those standards include break time and keeping a log of driver’s activity.

– Vehicle inspection: Farmers will be required to conduct pre-trip inspections and complete written post-trip safety reports.

(The author is a writer based in Temple, Pa.)

20 Comments

  1. Katherine Cowher says:

    This is just plain ridiculous, way to screw the farmers AGAIN !

  2. Gary Haws says:

    ” I am from the government, I’m here to help you”.

  3. Glenn Spath says:

    Welcome to all of you who voted for your change.

    OBAMA CARE yea right. Here’s his care alright.

  4. M C says:

    Load up the politicians, state and federal, deport them and let’s start over

  5. J.W. Davis says:

    Thanks Obama, I’m one of those under 18 tractor and combine drivers. Didn’t know I was a threat. By the way, I hope Guebert, Mary Gibson and all the “family farm defenders” show themselves when they run their mouth about Farm Bureau opposing this.

  6. This is terrible! We are already noticing a scary trend that involves the farm kids leaving the farm when they turn 18 to attend school or do other things which leaves all farm duties up to mom and pop. Fewer kids are wanting to take over the farm these days and if they can’t operate the machinery and help harvest, plant, spray, tend to livestock, etc. then they are being heavily removed from farming operations from the get go.
    Farm boys and girls need to be involved in the farm from day one and that includes helping operate the machinery.
    The govt needs to keep there paws out of the private lives of the world’s most important group of people!

  7. I am eleven and I live on a farm and have lived on a farm all my life. I raise goats chickens and rabbits and i think the government needs to mined there own business and my 75 year old grandfather raises cattle and raises hay and he said to me if the law go’s that he will not raise any thing any more some people might know him as hillbilly jims deer prossesing and i know if my pap stops farming he will stop butchering and i find it stupid that the govenment lets us drive when we are 16 but we have to be 18 to drive a tractor and now we have to get are tractors inspected thats just because the government wants big money so we small farmers can go out of business

  8. Dan says:

    how do they expect to enforce this law and do they really expect anyone to abide by it in the first place, im 15 been driving tractor since im 11-12 and now all of sudden im unsafe to operate a tractor for another 3yrs? whats up with that. kids have been running farm equipment under the age of 18 since there was farm equipment to run, whats with the sudden change?!?!

  9. David Somrack says:

    “A government that can give you everything, can take everything”

    politicians have no sense of reality

  10. Krista Bobby says:

    I think the legislators should try to buy food that does not come from a farm of some kind. I got kids that help with moving hay bales where it is safer for them to drive the tractor than handle the livestock. We raise our own animals so we don’t have to buy the crap in the store and my kids are healthier, government needs to worry about the terrorists than squeezing the little farmers.

  11. Jessica says:

    How do they expect farmers to raise anything without the help of there kids. Were the future of America, without us there will be no food! Why does the gov have to be such idiots. Kids raised on farms learn from a young age how to operate farm equipment. This law will ruin everything!!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I think its time we start dumping milk, and burning crops. we need to make people hungry then these bull crap laws will go away

  13. EdWatts says:

    I grew up on a farm in Ohio, and I drove a tractor LONG before I was eighteen; this is ridiculous. I wonder if arugula farmers will be granted an exemption (Obama campaigning in Iowa)? When will “Michelle’s garden” (I just can’t see that city girl on her knees spreading fertilizer and mulch.) come under federal regulation?

    America is finished.

  14. Barbara says:

    This is another attempt by the government to drive small farms out of business. Just like with NAIS, only large businesses are able to comply with all these regulations. This is the same policy that has destroyed small farms in the European Union.
    http://www.grain.org/seedling/?id=558

  15. Michelle says:

    i think this law is ridiculous! im 19 and learned how to drive a tractor at like twelve if our parents didnt have us the farms would be long gone and all you city folks would starve.

  16. Matt says:

    This is the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard, the government needs to mind their own business and leave farmers alone. I’ve been raised on and around farms my entire life would love to own my own someday , but by the way it looks it wouldn’t be worth it anymore. What a crappy way to get a buck as if they don’t take enough out of us now with taxes.Common America! We’re starting to look silly!

  17. David says:

    Imagine what you are going to encounter if you go out of state picking up farm equipment. I have Farm tags on truck and license the trailer even though it is not required in Ky but since I live so close to 2 other states I try to avoid any problems. My home State of Ky DOT says I am legal in Ky but need to check all states I will be crossing on the INTERSTATE HIGHWAY to pick up and bring home a tractor. 2 out of 4 states say I am legal without DOT placards; health screen etc, but the other 2 say differently.Beware of the weight limits;10,001 GVWR on truck which my F350 is 10,000 but DOT says truck and trailer cannot exceed the 10,001 GVWR.Try reading all the rules. It will make you sick……tired small Farmer…

  18. david5300 says:

    “Don’t believe every thing you hear out of Washington” didn’t Mr obama just say that? Could that be why he didn’t bring his 2.2 million dollar CANADIAN buses to Pa. People in Iowa have not felt his love like the Pa farmers have.
    Is this the change you voted for?

  19. Rich says:

    I think them politics dont kno how hard farm work can be at times without help im only 16 and drivin farm equipment….. politics should learn how to keep their shit to themselves and work on real problems

  20. Rich says:

    I think them politics dont kno how hard farm work can be at times without help im only 16 and drivin farm equipment….. politics should learn how to keep to themselves and work on real problems .

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