With planting season already beginning in some parts of the country, agriculture groups are applauding the Senate’s March 14 passage of the Surface Transportation bill. The bill includes a clarification of transportation regulations critical to the agriculture industry’s ability to distribute farm supplies in a timely manner, especially during busy times of the year. 

This important clarification to the Surface Transportation Bill was presented in the form of an amendment, introduced by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts and co-sponsored by Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns and Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar. The amendment resolved questions regarding the applicability of the agricultural hours of service (HOS) exemption and received approval by voice vote on the Senate floor.

The HOS exemption came into question in 2009 when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an interpretation of the regulations that resulted in transportation restrictions for certain farm supplies. The legislation amends aspects of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act, which served as the basis for FMCSA’s 2009 interpretation, to clarify the applicability of exemptions for agricultural products. Identical legislation was introduced in the House in October by Missouri Rep. Sam Graves and Missouri Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer.

“We appreciate the leadership demonstrated by Senators Klobuchar and Roberts through their introduction of this important amendment to the Surface Transportation Bill,” said Daren Coppock, Agricultural Retailers Association president and chief executive officer. “The Senate’s passage of this legislation helps ensure that agricultural retailers are able to supply farmers with the products they need in an efficient manner during critical times of the year.”

“We thank and applaud the efforts of Senators Klobuchar, Roberts and others for their work and support on this important issue. The agricultural exemption to the HOS rule is a crucial tool for transporters of agricultural products during the busiest times of the year,” said Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference Chairman, John Whittington. “We also commend the Senate for passing their Surface Transportation Bill and including language that will continue to allow the agriculture industry to work with the flexibility necessary to get the job done.”

Specifically, the legislation clarifies that the agricultural hours of service exemption is applicable to:

  • Drivers transporting agricultural commodities within a 100 air-mile radius;
  • Drivers transporting farm supplies for agricultural purposes from a wholesale or retail business to a farm or other location where the farm supplies are intended to be used within a 100 air-mile radius from the distribution point; or
  • Drivers transporting farm supplies from a wholesale location to a retail location so long as the transportation is within a 100 air-mile radius.

“I would like to recognize both Senator Klobuchar and Senator Roberts for their leadership on this issue,” said Chuck Conner, President and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. “The Senate’s action in approving this amendment will help ensure that farmer co-ops across the U.S. can continue to meet the farm supply needs of their producer-owners in a timely manner.”

The Fertilizer Institute “is very pleased with the passage of this important legislation and we are grateful for the efforts of Senators Klobuchar , Roberts  and others who offered their support of the agricultural hours of service exemption,” said TFI President Ford B. West. “We hope the House will work quickly to pass similar legislation.”