Drop the For-Hire Issue

Prairie Gleanings

DOT's for-hire interpretation on crop-share leases is unenforceable.

Published on: April 25, 2011
Enforce: (v.) to compel observance or obedience to.

As an adjective, the term is enforceable, i.e. the law is enforceable. Apparently, lawmakers and regulatory agencies need a little education in this concept.

In discussing transportation secretary Ray LaHood’s for-hire initiative, it appears the Department of Transportation forgot to ask the old “is this regulation/law enforceable” question.

A new interpretation from the Federal DOT would require farmers to be commercial operators when hauling grain for landlords as part of a crop-share lease. To date, the Illinois Farm Bureau is working hard to point out the significant hardship this could place on farmers and landowners.

I applaud IFB’s commitment to changing the DOT’s interpretation, but seriously, we shouldn’t have to fuss with such silly regulations. Let’s think this through.

If I’m a farmer, without a CDL and the appropriate insurance, I’m suddenly forced to make a change. Either I obtain the appropriate certifications, or I hire a commercial driver to haul my landlord’s grain. Or, I guess, if I really wanted to, I could change the terms of the lease and pay cash rent.

Or do I?

I do not condone law breaking, but who/how will this be enforced? Will local law enforcement sit roadside and watch as you harvest? Even if they did, how would they quantify the landlord’s half? Heck, how would they even know the terms of the lease? And, what’s the fine if all of these conditions are met and the farmer is actually caught?

I guess DOT could place inspectors at grain elevators. But the burden of proof still seems extraordinarily high.

As I noodled this with a farmer, we tried to figure out the impetus behind this new interpretation. Is the government after the additional fees that come along with commercial licenses? Do they think additional CDLs will make rural roads safer? Are trucking unions pushing for this with the thought they’ll pick up additional rural business?

I’m not sure. Still, my simple mind sees a big hassle of what should be a non issue. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like the ag community fights at least two or three of these each year. Time well wasted.

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