Custom harvesters take their case to Capitol Hill

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, January 4, 2012 -Custom harvesters traveled to Capitol Hill prior to the Christmas break in hopes of persuading the House Transportation Committee to hold a hearing on legislation to modify a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulation they've wanted changed for two decades

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They learned their best chance for fixing the problem lies with getting their language attached to a broader transportation or farm policy bill.

With a Class A Commercial Drivers License (CDL), custom harvesters cannot haul more than 119 gallons of fuel without a Hazardous Material Endorsement. Kent Braathen, vice president of U.S. Custom Harvesters Inc. (USCHI), an association of professional custom cutters, said advances in equipment technology have made it difficult to comply with the FMCSA rule, pointing out that fuel tanks on most modern combines and silage choppers hold 250-350 gallons.

“If you have six combines out in the field you have to make several trips with that 119 gallon tank to haul fuel to the combine - that's the burden of it,” Braathen, a harvester for-hire from Grand Forks, N.D., told Agri-Pulse. “Some of us have that HazMat endorsement, but we as owners can't always be there to fill those combines with fuel…and we can't let our employees haul the fuel, legally.”

Legislation has been introduced in both houses of Congress that would allow custom harvesters and agribusinesses to haul up to 1000 gallons of diesel without a HazMat endorsement on the Class A CDL.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, introduced the measure in the House and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., offered it in the Upper Chamber. 

Braathen and other USCHI officers visited with numerous House and Senate lawmakers - Republicans and Democrats alike - on their most recent trip to DC. He said all were sympathetic to the harvesters' plight.

“They all view this as a commonsense issue and expressed support for our bills to give us to ability to haul that 1000 gallons without that HazMat,” according to Braathen.



Original story printed in January 4, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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