Hoeven: Proposed Ag-Transport Regulations Don't Work

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, along with a bipartisan group of 21 other senators, called today for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to reconsider some of its proposals currently under review and open to public comment. In a letter to FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro, the senators expressed concern that the agriculture transportation-related proposals misinterpret guidance already established by government agencies, and, if made into rules, are likely to encumber our nation’s agricultural economy through over-regulation.

“Our farmers and ranchers need the federal government to help, not hinder their industry in this uncertain economic climate,” Hoeven said in a separate statement. “Although safety is always a priority when regulating agriculture-related transport, these proposals don’t make sense, and if implemented, would unfairly burden the agriculture industry with unnecessary regulations.”

The senators outlined their concerns over three proposed regulations:

- A rule seeking to distinguish between intra- and interstate commerce when a commercial motor vehicle is operated within the boundaries of a single state. The senators pointed to the 1975 U.S. DOT Federal Highway Safety Administration guidance for enforcement agencies, which provided that agricultural products are not considered interstate commerce. Therefore, a distinction between intra- and interstate commerce is unnecessary.

- A rule distinguishing between indirect and direct compensation (crop-share vs. indirect leases) in deciding whether a farm vehicle driver is eligible for the exception to the commercial driver’s license. The senators charge that this proposal doesn’t make sense, given the nature of crop-share agreements, which are means of paying rent for land. Therefore, when a tenant agrees to transport part of his or her landlord’s share, the delivery is part of the tenant’s labor and rent, and the tenant is not a “for hire” commercial carrier.

- A rule considering regulating farm equipment and husbandry instruments as Commercial Motor Vehicles. The senators point to The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, which provides the states the authority to waive the Commercial Driver’s License requirements for agriculture producers who drive farm equipment on public roads for short-distance trips. Additionally, farm implements do not carry passengers, and are not operated in interstate commerce. Therefore, the senators argue that farm machinery should not be classified as Commercial Motor Vehicles, and their operators should not be required to hold Commercial Driver’s Licenses.

“At a time when many individuals and small businesses 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,” the senators told Administrator Ferro in the letter.

They added: “We have heard from many farmers and ranchers across the country who have already been encumbered with an abundance of new federal regulations. We are concerned that these new proposed requirements are simply additional attempts to further burden on our nation’s most essential industries.”

Hoeven is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.