Trucking: agriculture commodity bill introduced

Trucking: agriculture commodity bill introduced

The bipartisan bill would provide a clear definition of “agricultural commodity” as it relates to transportation policy and new trucking regulations.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Austin Scott (R-GA) introduced H.R. 1673, The Agricultural Trucking Relief Act of 2019, last week. H.R. 1673 would provide clarity for the definition of “agricultural commodity” as it relates to transportation policy and compliance with new Electronic Logging Device (ELD) and the Hours of Service (HOS) rules and regulations. Scott, a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, released the following statement upon reintroducing the bipartisan bill. 

“Transportation carriers are vital to the movement of goods and services from coast to coast and everywhere in between, and our farmers depend on them to ensure that we are able to feed and clothe not only our country, but the world,” Rep. Scott said. “H.R. 1673 would more clearly define ‘agricultural commodities’ as applied to transportation laws, extending regulatory relief for all farm commodities including aquaculture, floriculture, and horticulture.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the main agency responsible for administering agricultural trucking laws, including new ELD and HOS rules and regulations. Currently, the “agriculture commodities” definition does not apply to all agricultural products, making it difficult for those that transport these commodities to comply with regulations.  

The primary reason why additional clarity is needed centers around the agricultural exemption associated with the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate. According to Tal Coley, AmericanHort's Director of Government Affairs, this exemption allows for the transportation of “agricultural commodities” within a 150 air-mile radius without an ELD or having hours of service count towards daily and weekly totals. Significantly, this means more time to load and unload, Coley writes. AmericanHort wrote a letter of support for Scott's bill, which can be read here.

Editor's note: We spoke at length with Coley about the agriculture commodities definition and ELD mandate in our January 2019 issue.

H.R. 1673 would create a clearer “agricultural commodity” definition for FMCSA to use when implementing and enforcing ELD and HOS. Currently, horticultural products have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USAD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and numerous other federal and state agencies as an agricultural commodity. However, horticultural and aquaculture products such as nurseries, sod, turfgrass, and freshwater and saltwater aquatic plants, algae, and other organisms are not currently included in the “agriculture commodity” definition used by the FMCSA. H.R. 1673 would ensure that agricultural, aquacultural, horticultural, and floricultural commodities are clearly defined as “agriculture commodities” for use under the FMCSA.

Joining Rep. Scott as original co-sponsors of the bill include U.S Representatives Neal Dunn (R-FL-02), Al Lawson (D-FL-05), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05).

H.R. 1673 is supported by:

  • American Farm Bureau Federation
  • AmericanHort
  • National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
For its part, AmericanHort stated it will continue efforts to build support for the bill through meetings with Congressional members, grassroots action, and through media outreach.