Common Sense Appears to Win in Proposed Ag Transportation Regulations Print Share

The last few months have shown a clear disconnect between Washington bureaucrats at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency in the Department of Transportation, and rural America.  The agency had proposed new regulations that could, if enacted, cause significant burdens on farmers as they transport their farm commodities.  
I joined several senators to voice concerns with the proposed regulations.   In our letter, we reminded the administration that “At a time when many individuals and small business are facing economic uncertainty and unemployment remains high, we cannot afford to place additional burdens on our nation’s producers of high quality, safe, and nutritious food.”
Our letter rebutted several assumptions made in the proposed regulations by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  We pointed out that farmers generally market products at the closest market that offers the best prices, and then the farmers relinquish ownership and control of their crops and livestock.  We believed that the agency incorrectly assumed that the crops or animals would eventually be sold or processed in another state.  We stressed that nobody could reasonably assume that farmers and ranchers are therefore engaged in interstate commerce.  
The agency also didn’t interpret crop-share agreements correctly and understand that delivery of the crop-share is considered to be part of the tenant’s labor and machine work that is required to grow, harvest, and market crops.  Therefore, farmers should not be defined as "for-hire" commercial carriers.
In addition, we specified that implements of husbandry and other farm equipment should not be considered commercial motor vehicles because they are not operated in interstate commerce and do not carry passengers; and if technical differences exist between federal and state laws and regulations, state laws should be the governing authority.   
Some good news appears to have come from our letter and the 1,700 comments from farmers across the country.  This week we received a response from the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Anne Ferro, in which she wrote, “FMCSA is pleased with the input and wants to make it clear, through guidance being issued today, that no new regulations will be imposed on the farming community.”
We’ll continue to keep an eye out for additional regulations that put our agriculture and business communities at a competitive disadvantage, and we’ll work to ensure that common sense has a seat at the table.
August 12, 2011