Tester calls for his farm vehicle exemption to become law

Senator’s bipartisan measure makes it easier for farm products to get to market

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is keeping the heat on Senate leaders to exempt Montana farm vehicles from burdensome regulations that are designed for long-haul truckers.

Farm vehicle operators that travel across state lines – even just a few miles – currently have to follow the same rules as commercial truck drivers and obtain special licenses and certificates, stop for frequent inspections, and meet special medical requirements.

Tester, the Senate’s only active farmer, successfully included a bipartisan amendment to the Senate’s long-term transportation bill that would exempt most farm vehicles from the regulations if they carry produce, livestock or equipment.  Commercial vehicles used to transport only agriculture products can still travel up to 150 miles from the farm without needing a commercial license.

Tester is now calling on Senate leaders to include his provision in the final bill as the Senate reconciles its bipartisan bill with a measure passed by the House of Representatives.

“This pragmatic approach to regulating farm vehicles will remove impediments to agriculture commerce around the country,” Tester wrote to committee members.  “This provision will reduce the regulatory burden for farmers and ranchers and allow them to efficiently sell their products.”

Tester’s amendment protects state laws that cover farm vehicles.  Farm vehicles that travel within states are already exempt from these commercial driving regulations.  The amendment is supported by the American Farm Bureau.

Senator Max Baucus also supported the amendment.

Tester recently got the Labor Department to drop a proposed rule that would have restricted young farm workers from performing certain activities on farms and ranches.

Tester’s letter to committee members is available below and online HERE.


May 10, 2012

The Honorable Barbara Boxer
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
410 Dirksen Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Jim Inhofe
Ranking Member
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
456 Dirksen Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senators Boxer and Inhofe,

Thank you for your tireless efforts to pass a comprehensive bi-partisan transportation reauthorization bill.  As you begin your work in the conference committee, we urge you to retain Senate amendment 1814 to allow farmers and ranchers common sense exemptions from certain regulations when they transport their products.  This amendment has bi-partisan support and passed the Senate by voice vote.

Currently, farmers are exempt from certain regulations when they transport their products in farm vehicles, as long as they are transporting the products within the same state.  However, this is problematic for farmers and ranchers who live near state borders and whose best market or nearest processing facility might be just across the state line.  This inconsistency in current law frequently means additional burdensome regulations meant for commercial truck drivers like vehicle inspections for every trip, even if the farm vehicle is simply driving from the field to the barn, and adhering to hours of service rules, even though the farmer is driving an hour down the road to a mill.

The adopted amendment will allow farms to transport products to the nearest processing facility without these burdensome requirements, even if the vehicle crosses a state line. The amendment creates strict criteria for vehicles that can take the exemptions.  In order to qualify, the vehicle must be registered in the state as a farm vehicle, be driven by the farm or ranch owner, an employee or family member (for-hire drivers do not qualify), must be transporting to or from the farm agricultural commodities, livestock, or supplies, and the vehicle must be either less than 26,001 lbs or, if heavier, can be driven only within the state or a 150 air mile radius of the farm.  This pragmatic approach to regulating farm vehicles will remove impediments to agricultural commerce around the country.

We urge you to preserve Senate-passed amendment 1814 as you negotiate a final transportation reauthorization bill in the conference committee. Not only was the amendment supported by both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, but the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee-passed bill included similar language, which also had bi-partisan support in the House.  This provision will reduce the regulatory burden for farmers and ranchers and allow them to efficiently sell their products. 

Jon Tester
United States Senate