More than 60 organizations urged members of Congress to support a bill that would help the nation’s agricultural suppliers, producers and transporters by ensuring that hours-of-service rules for agricultural haulers are consistent throughout the year and across state lines.
The FARM to TABLE Act, introduced by Rep. John Joyce (R., Pa.), would help make the agricultural exception to the federal hours-of-service rules more widely available by making it available year-round and providing clarity with respect to its application to agricultural products, the groups said in a June 9 letter.
“As COVID-19 clearly has demonstrated, a reliable food and fiber supply chain is critically important to meeting the needs of families across the nation,” the letter stated. “This commonsense legislation will provide relief to agricultural producers and their drivers who have worked tirelessly to feed America during this crisis.”
In a news release, the National Grain & Feed Assn. (NGFA), one of the signees, explained that federal law currently provides an exception from federal hours-of-service rules for the transportation of agricultural commodities within a 150-air-mile radius from the source of the commodities during planting and harvesting periods, which are determined by each state. While most states have year-round planting and harvesting periods, 15 have chosen to narrowly define their planting and harvesting seasons.
“These varying regulations create confusion as to what rules a driver is operating under at any given time,” the groups said. In addition, “the current narrow definitions unnecessarily inhibit industries, such as dairy, livestock and agricultural inputs, which transport their supplies year-round.”
The FARM to TABLE Act would simplify the exception for agricultural commodities by eliminating the state-by-state planting and harvesting period definition and by allowing the exception to apply year-round.
Further, the bill also would provide greater clarity of the products included within the definition of an “agricultural commodity” covered by the federal hours-of-service rules exception, such as by adding the term feed ingredients to include soybean meal, distillers grains and other feed ingredients. This is consistent with input provided to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by more than 100 agricultural and trucking organizations last fall, NGFA said in its release.