NOEM: One-size-fits-all approach doesn’t fit SD agricultureSeeing combines and other farm equipment on the road is a common scene in South Dakota. We don’t think twice when we see a convoy of machinery going from field to field.
By: U.S. REP. KRISTI NOEM , Guest columnist
Seeing combines and other farm equipment on the road is a common scene in South Dakota. We don’t think twice when we see a convoy of machinery going from field to field.
Unfortunately, I recently got word of yet another Washington, D.C., proposed regulation that just doesn’t make much sense in South Dakota. Currently in our state, farm equipment is exempt from commercial driver’s license (CDL) rules. This exemption allows farm equipment to be driven on public roads for short distances for a couple months out of the year with a regular drivers’ license and without paying higher registration fees.
When word got out that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was looking at possibly changing this exemption, I was contacted by many family farmers who would be hurt by this change. In response, I wrote a letter to the administrator telling him about my opposition to the proposed rule changes on behalf of South Dakota ag producers. Vehicles used for agriculture operations have long received a different classification and I believe for good reason — farm equipment is not the same as a commercial vehicle. I also believe that these rules, if implemented, could impose severe financial burdens on our state’s largest industry, small businesses, and working families.
Many South Dakota farms are still family operations, which means many family members help out in numerous ways. Rural states understand how these farms operate and, generally, allow younger people to obtain driver’s licenses. One reason they allow this is so 16-yearolds can operate farm equipment. Classifying farm equipment as commercial vehicles, and requiring a CDL, would limit the work teenagers could perform on their family farms. The minimum age for a CDL is commonly 18 for in-state business, but increases to 21 for those traveling out of state. Any rule requiring a CDL for farm vehicles would shrink the labor pool and increase labor costs. Now is certainly not the time to increase the cost of doing business.
This proposed change is, unfortunately, another “one size fits all” approach that does not take into account the expansive diversity in agricultural types, practices, and operations based on location. This sweeping change would result in financial burdens as well as additional and unnecessary regulatory oversight by the federal government. Decisions like these should be left to the states. All states have the option to exempt most farmers from the requirement to obtain a commercial driver’s license, which South Dakota and many other states have exercised. States are more knowledgeable about their individualized agricultural and transportation related issues. Let’s keep those decisions at the state level.
Noem, a Republican from Castlewood, is South Dakota’s lone representative in the U.S. House.