The U.S. Dept. of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says it has no intention to propose new regulations governing the transport of agricultural products. The FMCSA's press release announcement is at www.dot.gov/affairs/2011/fmcsa2411.html.

The NCC stated that it was pleased that the FMCSA agrees that onerous regulations are not needed and that agriculture has worked with individual states to develop common sense enforcement practices.

The NCC recently had submitted comments, available at www.cotton.org/news/releases/2011/upload/NCC-FMCSA-Comments.pdf, to the FMCSA expressing its concern with the agency's interpretations and some of its proposed guidances. The NCC’s comments focused on: 1) the distinction between interstate and intrastate commerce in deciding whether operations of commercial motor vehicles within the boundaries of a single state are subject to FMCSA regulations; 2) the factors that states are using in deciding whether farm vehicle drivers transporting agricultural commodities, farm supplies and equipment as part of a crop share agreement are subject to the commercial driver’s license (CDL) regulations; and 3) proposed guidance to determine whether off-road farm equipment or implements of husbandry operated on public roads for limited distances are considered commercial motor vehicles.

The NCC’s comments also noted the concern that the interpretations and some of the proposed guidance in the notice could adversely affect the long-standing exemptions, waivers and exceptions that agricultural operations have effectively used for more than 25 years. These exemptions, waivers and exceptions properly take into account agricultural operations’ seasonal nature, limited access to and the availability of CDL drivers, the types of vehicles as well as their varying functions or loads, the hours of service during peak seasonal activities, the use of family members, and costs. Furthermore, agricultural operations and organizations have worked closely with individual states, which have been given authority to grant these exemptions.

In addition to comments filed by outside groups, a bipartisan group of 22 Senators (including nine Cotton Belt Senators) sent a letter to the FMCSA strongly objecting to the changes proposed in the Federal Register notice.