8 August 2011 - A tractor is not a truck

There are two items on my "This makes absolutely no sense!" list I want to talk about this week. The first has to do with a proposed rule change for farm equipment by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration which is part of the Department of Transportation.

The rule change would require all farmers and everyone on the farm who operates a tractor, combine or other motorized farm equipment to obtain a Commercial Drivers License, known in the trucking industry as a CDL. The Department will do this by reclassifying all farm vehicles and implements as Commercial Motor Vehicles. Opponents of the proposal (and there are many) point out this means it would be illegal for a young worker too young to drive on a highway or an older person who can no longer drive an automobile, to drive a tractor, even on the family’s farm.

Add to that a mountain of paper work, all farm implement operators would have to keep detailed logs similar to those now required of truck drivers...hours worked and miles traveled, as well as the need to pass a physical, including a drug test every two years. Ray LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation, represented an Illinois rural Congressional District for many years and he should understand that this "legislation through regulation" makes absolutely no sense. We need to let the Secretary know that a tractor (or a self-propelled combine or forage harvester) is not a truck.

No. 2 on my "This makes absolutely no sense!" list this week... this summer I have heard from parents in three different parts of the country really upset because the School Board of their rural high school decided to eliminate the agriculture department and FFA. All three Boards gave the same reason... not enough interest or job opportunities in agriculture to justify the cost.

I understand the problem of money, but not enough interest or job opportunities? I suggest these Board members take a look at the current economy and job opportunities. Layoffs and firings in the banking industry, the auto industry, the housing industry, even the internet world, while the agribusiness industry continues to grow. If agricultural high schools in big cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Kansas City continue to thrive and have student waiting lists, why can’t a rural high school maintain an agricultural program. Also remember, the FFA is one of the premier leadership training programs for young people anywhere and, in my opinion, should be part of every high school in the country.

Help me, I would love to remove these two issues from my list!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.