By DOUG SCHMITZ
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new bill proposed in the U.S. Senate late last month would provide U.S. agricultural producers much-needed flexibility for hauling livestock and perishable commodities.
“I am proud to introduce the HAULS Act, which builds on my previous work to ensure ag and livestock haulers can continue feeding our nation,” said Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety, who introduced the Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act.
Under the HAULS Act, S. 4720, a 150 air-mile exemption would be added to the hour-of-service (HOS) regulations to the backend of hauls for those transporting livestock or agricultural commodities.
Marty Smith, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assoc., said this legislation would also eliminate the seasonal harvest requirements for the agriculture hours-of-service (HOS) exemption, making the exemption available year round in all states.
“For years, livestock haulers and producers were unduly burdened with hours-of-service regulations that do not take into account the unique difficulties that these drivers face every day,” he said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has only further illustrated how important it is to allow these drivers to quickly and safely reach their destinations, and in turn, keep grocery store shelves stocked with beef,” he added.
Jon Samson, executive director of the Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference (AFTC) in Arlington, Va., said of the new bill, “This language provides the ag community with continued flexibility during the busiest times of the year, while expanding uniformity and clarity for the transportation of our nation’s ag products.”
Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) congressional relations director, said Fischer has been working with a group of agricultural commodity organizations, and other agricultural haulers to listen to the needs of the industry.
“She’s developed this bill that would provide three things to modernize trucking regulations, and make a benefit for the safety and efficiency of hauling ag products,” he said.
He said most states have already gotten rid of the seasonality of planting and harvest seasons.
“When you are moving livestock, that’s a year-round enterprise,” he said. “And so it’s Congress recognizing the growing season is really year-round for a lot of ag commodities.”
He said the legislation would not only update the definition of an agricultural commodity, but also promote safety for drivers and livestock.
“One of the unique situations that we find ourselves in agriculture is that we are sometimes dealing with live animals or perishable commodities,” he said. “The animal piece is really key in where we need to make sure that we are using common sense, and have the needed flexibility to ensure safety.
“That’s what the HAULS Act looks to do, is to make sure the perishable commodities like livestock can get to their destination safely; that driver can get to their destination safely; and then that driver rests,” he added.
AFBF president Zippy Duvall, said, “The HAULS Act modernizes trucking regulations to meet the needs of our members. I applaud Sen. Fischer for her leadership on this important issue.”
Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition in Ankeny, Iowa, said STC anticipates the Hauls Act will provide a greater degree of certainty and flexibility for U.S. soybean farmers.
“Given how agriculture contains such a high degree of unpredictability, it is important to have the type of flexibility the Hauls Act will enhance.”