Pennsylvania: Legislature overwhelmingly approves two ag bills; next stop is the governor

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CAMP HILL, Pa. — If Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett signs House Bills 2092 and 1440, farmers can breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to whether greenhouses need to meet state building codes and who needs a commercial driver’s license to drive semi-trucks.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is urging Gov. Corbett to sign the two bills.

The Farm and Dairy left messages inquiring about when the house bills will be considered by the governor, but they weren’t returned as of deadline.

CDL

House Bill 2092, which addressed whether or not farmers need a commercial driver’s license when hauling for farm use or farm products, has been unanimously approved by the state General Assembly.

The Pennsylvania law has not been equal to the federal law for a couple of years. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation told Pennsylvania officials the state law needed to be consistent with the federal law or they risked losing funding.

Joel Rotz, senior director for state government affairs with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said the Pennsylvania State police and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation worked with other state officials in order to ensure the safety of the public and that farmers would be able to drive semi-trucks.

Simply put, if a truck is registered with farm license plates then the driver does not need a CDL.

Specifically, the legislation codifies in the state vehicle code the farm driver exemption from CDL provided in federal transportation legislation. The bill exempts drivers of trucks with Pennsylvania farm registration plates or farm certificates of exemption from registration from the CDL requirements when the trucks are operated anywhere in Pennsylvania.

The bill also exempts drivers of Pennsylvania farm trucks and of out-of-state trucks designated for restricted farm use from CDL when operated interstate (crossing state lines) within a 150 air mile radius of the farm (172.6 road miles).

Building codes

House Bill 1440 would clarify the state building code to clearly recognize that buildings used for planting and growing of agricultural and horticultural products qualify for the code’s “agricultural building” exemption from regulation.
Rotz said some municipalities questioned if greenhouses and high tunnels had to meet the state construction code.

However, the legislature determined that they don’t have to meet the state code unless the buildings are accessible to the public. If the buildings are open to the public, then they do have to meet the state code.

“House Bill 1440 is just a common sense extension of the exemption already existing in the state building code. The code currently exempts farm structures that store farm products. In fact, many municipal code enforcers are already interpreting the code’s ‘agricultural building’ exemption to include structures used in seeding and growing these products as well,” said PFB President Carl T. Shaffer.

“House Bill 1440 will ensure the exemption is uniformly applied statewide to greenhouses and other structures that farmers may use to lengthen their growing seasons in production of vegetables, fruits and other horticultural products.”

House Bill 1440 was unanimously approved in both the House and Senate.

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