The PJ Tatler

Obama's Regulatory State Marches On

A day after President Obama spoke about American innovation and how we need to get the economy going again, and blamed Congress for all of his own problems, his regulatory state is setting up for another predatory move.

The federal Department of Transportation is looking at reclassifying agricultural machinery as commercial vehicles. The impact of that decision would be to require licensing and other regulations, on vehicles that seldom leave the property where they’re used.

Tim Strobel has been driving a tractor for 20 years, so he’s a bit puzzled that federal officials are kicking around an idea that could ultimately force him – and anyone else operating farm machinery – to get a commercial driver’s license.

Yes, the same kind of license that interstate truckers must have to operate their rigs.

“I am not against some training, but this is going a little bit overboard,” said Strobel, a dairy farmer from Watertown.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has been collecting public comments on the notion, which the agency insists doesn’t yet merit being called a “proposal.”

But it’s far enough along that the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, state Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel, and a bipartisan group of 21 U.S. senators, among others, are speaking out against it.

Farm Bureau officials say Transportation Department proposals aimed at reclassifying agricultural machinery as commercial motor vehicles could lead to a requirement that farmers get a commercial license to move equipment on roads between fields and to their local grain mills.

It’s “overreaching and unnecessary,” said Karen Gefvert, Wisconsin Farm Bureau director of governmental relations.

The additional public safety gained from increased federal regulation is unclear at best, but the additional costs for farmers would come at a time when they could least afford them, Brancel said in a letter to federal officials.

In one scenario, farmers hauling grain to local elevators would be treated as if they were engaged in interstate commerce because grain, in many cases, eventually leaves the state.

Read the article. The DOT is taking a “We didn’t intend to stir up controversy” attitude. Some effects of this policy change could be requiring farmers to log and file the miles they drive in their tractors, and other unnecessary paperwork and expense at a time when inflation is already threatening US household budgets. And it’s another infringement on individual and state authority that’s just not needed. We’ve gotten along just fine without this sort of requirement for more than 200 years now.