WASHINGTON – Although the Highway Bill (S.1813) has been a victim of partisan politics, according to National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Associate Director of Legislative Affairs Kent Bacus, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reached an agreement on the consideration of a series of amendments to the Highway Bill. Two of those amendments, which passed today, are of particular importance for farm and ranch families. Specifically, an amendment brought forth by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) will exempt drivers of farm vehicles from having to acquire a commercial driver’s license. Another amendment, introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), will waive hours of service restrictions during harvest seasons.
“Farmers and ranchers are not professional truck drivers and shouldn’t be treated as such. Hauling livestock to market two times a year is hardly the same as hauling goods across the country on a daily basis. Subjecting family farmers and ranchers to costly and requirements is an unnecessary burden we cannot afford,” said Bacus. “NCBA and its members were pleased to see the U.S. Senate approve two commonsense amendments that differentiate agriculture from commercial transportation.”
The amendment brought up by Sen. Klobuchar is similar to H.R. 3265, sponsored by Congressman Sam Graves (R-Mo.), which waives certain driving restrictions during planting and harvest seasons for producers who are transporting agricultural goods. Bacus said the amendment would allow farmers and ranchers to transport goods during harvest seasons when necessary instead of being subject to certain time requirements. The Farmers’ Freedom Act of 2011, H.R. 2414, sponsored by Congressman James Lankford (R-Okla.) is similar to the amendment sponsored by Sen. Merkley. This legislation exempts certain farm vehicles, including the individual operating the vehicle, from certain federal requirement such as commercial driver’s licenses.
According to the U.S. House of Representatives, it is not moving forward with its version of the Highway Bill. Instead, the House will take up the two-year Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.), which was debated in the Senate today. Once the Senate concludes consideration of the amendments, the bipartisan legislation will be brought up for consideration this week. The bill will then move to the House for consideration.