Farmers prevail against suggested transportation regulations

Farmers can breathe easier now that the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has declared it will not change any federal rules that require farmers to receive a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Earlier this year, the DOT began asking questions about CDLs in the agriculture community that led many farmers to worry that some states were about to interpret crop sharing as a commercial arrangement that would trigger a CDL.

For those reasons, the FMCSA sought comments in the Federal Register about three issues:
  • What distinguishes intra- and interstate commerce for operation of a commercial motor vehicle in a state
  • Whether a farmer transporting supplies or crops as part of a crop-sharing agreement needs a CDL
  • Whether farm equipment should be considered commercial vehicles
According to the DOT, the agency received approximately 1,700 comments expressing concern about these issues.

U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari stated that the DOT’s goal is to make sure that states don’t make any changes that go against common sense in those three areas.

“We want to make it absolutely clear that farmers will not be subjected to new and impractical safety regulations," Porcari said. "The farm community can be confident that states will continue to follow the regulatory exemptions for farmers that have always worked so well."

The DOT issued an official guidance that explains its ruling for these three issues.

DOT official guidance summary
  • Interstate vs. Intrastate Commerce: The difference between the two has been determined by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts; therefore FMCSA has limited flexibility to provide additional guidelines. If specific questions arise, FMCSA will work with the states and the industry to provide a clarification for the specific scenario.
  • Commercial Driver's License: Federal regulations allow states to make exceptions for certain farm-vehicle drivers such as farm employees and family members, as long as their vehicles are not used by “for-hire” motor carriers. After considering the public comments, the FMCSA has determined that farmers who rent their land for a share of the crops and haul their own and the landlord’s crops to market should have access to the agricultural CDL exemptions given by the states.
  • Implements of Husbandry: After considering the public comments, FMCSA has determined that most states have already adopted common-sense enforcement practices that allow farmers to safely move equipment to and from their fields. In areas where farm implements are common, the enforcement community and the agricultural community have achieved a mutual understanding about which safety regulations should apply to farm equipment on their public roads.
What are your thoughts about these issues? Was it a victory for the agriculture industry? Do you think these issues will arise again in the future?

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What type of farmer are you?

It’s no surprise that America’s farmers represent a diverse group, especially when it comes to their adoption of sustainable farming practices.

We are living in a world where increasing incomes and populations are going to require farmers to be even more productive, growing more food on less land and using fewer resources while conserving soil, water and air quality.

New research from Farm Futures reveals that farmers can combine both profits and conservation. Its recent survey of more than 1,000 farmers found that those on the cutting edge of conservation were more profitable than other producers.

According to the survey, farmers fall into five groups depending on their practices and profits.
  • Green & Gold (4 percent): These farmers represent a small minority of farmers and are the most conservation-minded growers. They use the most sustainable practices.
  • Big & Brown (17 percent): Farmers who farm an average of more than 3,600 acres are in this group. While they earn good incomes, their return on equity is below average. They are large enough to adopt site-specific technology, but haven’t utilized applications and their conservation efforts fall short of average.
  • Black & Red (16 percent): These farmers are no more advanced in conservation issues than the “Green and Gold” group, but they have found the “sweet spot” of profitability. They are larger than average, but smaller than the “Big & Brown” group because they haven’t bought as much land, which helps to keep their debt levels under control.
  • Green & Gray (7 percent): The adoption of this group’s sustainable practices is more than the “Green and Gold” group, but their demographics contradict the difficulty of being an innovator. While they farm larger than average acres, their size falls short of the most profitable group.
  • Average Joes (56 percent): These farmers’ conservation efforts are typical and their ability to progress is limited. They are smaller, less profitable and older than the average grower surveyed, which appears to limit their willingness to adopt newer and greener technology and practices.
Results from the survey reveal that high-profit farms generally are more engaged in planning, which helps translate conservation efforts into profitability.

The “Green & Gold” farmers are far more likely to have written plans for conservation, pesticide use, nutrient management and wildlife management, as well as standard operating procedures for all farm operations. These practices can help midsize and smaller farmers stay competitive and green.

To view how you compare to other farmers and to determine what type of farmer you are, visit

What do you think of these survey results? For those of you who are farmers, what type do you think you are?

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Agricultural Thievery

Jewelry, cash, cars…these are traditional items of choice for burglars, but what about cows, tractors and fertilizer?

“The increasing incidence of rural theft—and theft in general—is more proof of the negative impacts of our country's troublesome economic state, rampant unemployment and other burdens,” stated an International Business Times story.

Just two weeks ago, a 25-year-old woman from Albany, Ohio, was arrested for stealing $5,000 of machinery and steel from an area farm.

In March, two men were arrested in Dover-New Philadelphia, Ohio, for stealing a bale hauler to sell for scrap metal.

Farm security is difficult to implement, given decreased law enforcement professionals and the difficulty of allocating officers to patrol remote areas. Law enforcement is experiencing rural theft throughout the country, as reported in a recent story:

“While other states have their own agricultural intrigue — cattle rustlers in Texas, tomato takers in Florida — few areas can claim a wider variety of farm felons than California, where ambushes on everything from almonds to beehives have been reported in recent years. Then there is the hardware: Diesel fuel, tools and truck batteries regularly disappear in the Central Valley, the state's agricultural powerhouse, where high unemployment, foreclosures and methamphetamine abuse have made criminals more desperate, officials say.”

The Ohio State University Cooperative Extension Service has authored a paper specifically to help farmers prevent the theft of Anhydrous Ammonia.

Many insurance groups provide farm-related policies, such as Ohio Mutual Insurance Group, which insures the following:
  • Replacement cost on contents, dwelling and outbuildings
  • Borrowed, rented or leased farm equipment
  • Coverage on outbuildings
  • Identity-theft expense
Farm theft prevention tips:
  • Display association member signs
  • Keep records of serial numbers or other ID numbers of equipment and tools
  • Use locks to limit access to storage areas and control possession of keys; Ensure locks are tamper-resistant
  • Detach hoses from unattended tanks and store tanks in high-traffic areas illuminated by motion-sensor lights
  • Conduct inventory regularly
  • Secure rail, truck and barge containers
  • Brand livestock
  • Don't establish a routine when feeding
  • Participate in neighborhood Crime Watch programs
  • Park trailers and equipment out of view from the road
  • Know who the people are who have access to your property
  • Never leave keys in equipment
Have you or anyone who you know, been a victim of an ag-related theft? Do you participate in community watch programs?

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Livestock: Beating the heat

With temperatures in the 90s and the heat index even higher, it’s clear that we are in the dog days of summer.

While it’s important for people to practice safe measures when higher temperatures prevail, it’s also important for livestock producers to alter their daily management practices to ensure the safety of their livestock.

“Coordinating animal movement and handling in the morning or evening hours is essential to minimizing heat stress for livestock,” says John Grimes, Ohio State University Extension beef coordinator. “Working animals in the middle of the day is a recipe for heat-related health issues.” recently published an article with tips to help livestock producers.
  • Plan ahead: Alter the schedule to take advantage of times before or after the real heat of the day kicks in
  • Increase water access: Make sure animals have plenty of water and that the water flow is sufficient to keep tanks full and ensure that there’s enough space at water tanks
  • Provide other cooling help: Remove objects that are obstructing natural air movement and incorporate ventilation, shade and sprinklers
  • Keep an eye out: Review the weather outlook, specifically as it pertains to potential heat stress by getting the seven-day heat stress forecast by location from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service
In addition to the above tips, shade is also important to animal comfort, however it’s important to note that not all shade is created equal, as stated in a recent article in Ohio’s Country Journal.

“Sometimes shade in buildings or under man made shelters is hotter than just being outside where livestock can get in the breeze,” says Roger High, Ohio State University Extension sheep coordinator. “When the animals concentrate in those areas, there may be a buildup of ammonia from their feces and urine, and it may actually be less healthy than being out in the open air.”

The bottom line for all livestock farmers – keep animals well fed and watered and handle moving practices to the coolest times of the day.

Do you or do you know a livestock producer who is practicing safe measures to help his/her livestock beat the heat this summer? Are there any additional tips that you can share?

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