Senators urge flexibility for milk truckers in transportation bill

By Daniel Enoch

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2015  - A bipartisan group of nine U.S. senators is urging the conference committee handling the surface transportation bill to make sure the final bill allows bulk milk trucks to carry their cargo without being forced to offload portions of their load at state borders. The senators said that requirement increases food safety risks for consumers and costs for dairy farmers.

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In a letter to the Republican and Democratic leaders on the conference committee, the senators asked that the lawmakers support language that was included in the House-passed version of H.R. 22, the “Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act,” that would classify milk as a non-divisible load. The language was not included in the Senate version.

“This provision  allow states to issue special permits to bulk milk trucks, giving them more flexibility to ensure that milk is delivered in a timely manner and in compliance with federal and state food safety and security standards,” the letter read.

By classifying milk as a “non-divisible load,” this provision acknowledges that milk cannot be easily divided or dismantled between farms and processing plants, the senators explained.

“Milk is a perishable product that must be sealed for safety and transported quickly. When milk truckers pick up bulk milk, they must load the entire stock of bulk milk that a farm produced that day - not just the amount of milk that would keep the trucker in compliance with state truck weight limits. This is problematic because the amount of milk produced at a farm varies from day-to-day, based on weather, feed, and other factors. As a result, milk truckers perpetually risk being overweight. While milk truckers can break the seal and offload a portion of the milk to bring their truck weight into compliance, doing so increases transportation time and compromises the safety and security of the milk.”

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The letter was signed by Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Kelly Ayotte, D-N.H.; Jim Risch, R-Idaho; and Angus King, I-Maine. For a copy of the letter, click here.

Randy Paulson, division manager for Associated Milk Producers Inc. in Jim Falls, Wisconsin, endorsed the senators' request.

“The cost of transporting bulk milk can be significant for dairy cooperatives and our dairy farmer-owners,” Paulson said. “Having a more rational and coordinated weight limit policy for milk trucks crossing state borders makes total sense, and we applaud the senators' help on this matter.”

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