According to the Oregon Farm Bureau, (OFB) agricultural operations face losing their longtime farm-vehicle exemptions if a Federal Motor Carrier Admin. (FMCSA) proposed rulemaking is adopted. FMCSA is seeking to regulate farm vehicles as commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), which would preclude existing exemptions for farm/ranch vehicles under both state and federal laws.
After reviewing the exemptions, said OFB in a statement released to members, FMCSA proposed three questions to be reviewed per the current public comment period:
- How does one distinguish between intra- and interstate commerce when a CMV is operated within the boundaries of a single state?
- Should FMCSA distinguish between indirect and direct compensation in deciding whether a farm vehicle driver is eligible for the exception to the CDL requirements?
- Should implements of husbandry and other farm equipment be considered CMVs?
OFB also pointed out that “many states have tried to categorize agricultural products as interstate commerce, which would result in many farmers and ranchers losing any exemptions they currently enjoy for intrastate commerce.” And it said that defining farm vehicles and/or tractors or other farm implements as CMVs would also result in farmers and ranchers losing the exemptions.
According to OFB, the first concern generated by these new federal and state regulatory pushes is whether agriculture should be treated as interstate commerce or intrastate commerce. The second is whether or not farmers and ranchers who participate in crop-share arrangements should be considered as “for hire” carriers, which would require them to have commercial drivers’ licenses (CDL). The third concern is whether any new CDL regs will extend to drivers of “implements of husbandry,” which include [farm] tractors, combines, and other farm vehicles.
“Ultimately, farmers and ranchers would have to lay out the money for the CDL and if you have employees for whom English may not be their first language, that could be problematic,” stated OFB “Also, because other industries need CDLs, it is possible to have a situation where farmers and ranchers pay to help their employees get those licenses but then the employee takes it elsewhere, leaving the farmer with added costs and no driver. There is also the issue of young farmers under 18 years of age not having the ability to work on their family farm because they won’t be able to drive a tractor without a commercial driver’s license.”
OMB pointed out FMCSA has published these proposed rules in the Federal Register with a June 30, 2011 deadline to submit comments. OFB said it will be submitting comments on this issue and also is calling on its members to do the same.
Submit comments identified by Federal Docket Management System Number FMCSA-2011-0146 by any of the following methods:
• Follow the online instructions here.
• Fax: (202) 493-2251
• Mail: Docket Management Facility, (M-30), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, West Building, Ground Floor, Room 12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001
OFB also asked that members interested in submitting comments or have questions about this rulemaking to please contact Jennifer Shmikler at [email protected] or 503-991-2785.
The Oregon Farm Bureau is a voluntary, nonprofit organization that represents the interests of the state's farmers and ranchers in the public and policymaking arenas.