Legislators in both the House and the Senate Friday approved the Surface Transportation Bill, also known as the "Highway Bill," which clarifies current transportation regulations and includes exemptions for farm vehicles.
The final agreement includes the Farmers' Freedom Act (H.R. 2414), which will prevent farm vehicles from federal requirements such as commercial driver's licenses and provide additional uniformity across state lines.
Legislation to waive certain driving restrictions during planting and harvesting seasons for commodity transportation (H.R. 3265) was also included in the Transportation Bill.
Daren Coppock, Agricultural Retailers Association president and chief executive officer, said the bill is important to product distribution.
Ag groups react positively to the passage of the highway bill, but remind lawmakers that there is work yet to be done."The passage of this important bill by Congress will help ensure that agricultural retailers are able to supply farmers with the products they need, in the most efficient manner, during busy times of the year. We appreciate the leadership demonstrated by the conferees on this critical issue for the agriculture industry."
National Cattlemen's Beef Association President J.D. Alexander said that the bill also important for cattle producers because transportation laws affect trailer length, size and weight. Though the bill did address key issues for NCBA, Alexander said the group was disappointed that truck weights weren't directly discussed.
"State governments need to be given the option to increase truck weights with an additional axle to livestock and semi-trailers. This will increase braking power and place less total weight on each axle, making livestock transportation safer, more economical and less stressful on U.S. roadways," said Alexander.
Alexander said NCBA supports the agreement reached, but will continue working with members of Congress to address other transportation priorities.
Association of Equipment Manufacturers Chair Rusty Fowler echoed Alexander's approval, but agreed that more needs to be done for the long-term.
"The comprehensive infrastructure investment our country needs requires a long-term strategic vision and a well-structured, sustainable funding mechanism in order to be effective," Fowler said.
The Senate reached their decision 74-19 while the House voted 373-52.