In May of this year, the Department of Transportation proposed a potential rule change that could dramatically impact already-beleaguered small farmers across the nation. The DOT, operating through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, has suddenly decided that all farm vehicles and all mechanized farm equipment should be classified as Commercial Motor Vehicles. Furthermore, anyone living or working on a farm would be required to have a commercial drivers license before they would be allowed to operate motorized farm machinery such as tractors and other types of harvesting and hauling equipment.
Based on an extensive perusal of their muddled public pronouncements, the government rationale for this proposed change might have something to do with a desire for consistency in rules and regulations. Or, perhaps it has something to do with complaints by people about too many tractors slowing down traffic and creating hazards on the roadways. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration states that its primary purpose is to guarantee the safety of the American people, so maybe the Nanny State has decided that farmers are in danger from their own equipment and need protection from their own incompetence in using it. Since neither the DOT nor the FMCA has given any kind of clear explanation as to why they suddenly want all farm equipment classified as CMVs, and why they want everyone working on farms to have CDLs (my goodness, but the government does love its initials, doesn’t it?), all we are left with is to search through their public utterances for any vague clues about what is going on that we can find.
The one thing that is clear, however, is that if these new regulations eventually go into effect (there is no timetable about when that might happen at the current time), the small family farmer in America may finally and irrevocably go the way of the passenger pigeon.
How the New Rules Would Effect Small Farmers
In order to get a CDL, it is first necessary to go through extensive training and testing that could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars for farms families and workers, depending on how many people would need the training. To actually get the license would then cost another $100 or more per person, and only those above the age of 18 would actually be able to get a CDL.
This latter point would be tremendously significant for family farmers, who must rely on their children to help out on the farm in every way in order to survive. For those who live in rural areas, it is a familiar sight to see teenagers and older children driving farm machinery out on the side roads or in the fields, and this activity has been going on forever without causing any problems for anyone. But according to the logic of the government, while it is perfectly all right for sixteen-year olds to be driving around in cars terrorizing the roadways and getting into more deadly accidents than any other group, it is apparently a horrible threat to public safety to have young people driving tractors at twenty miles per hour along deserted rural roadsides.
In addition to the great expense, and the critical loss of young labor, these new regulations would inevitably bury small farmers under a mountain of paperwork and record keeping. Like CDL operators who drive semi tractor-trailers, anyone who drives farm machinery would have to keep detailed records of all the time they spend driving, what exactly they did, where they did it, what they carried, and so on. Registration requirements for farm machinery would also mean that all kinds of paperwork would need to be filled out on a regular basis. Some farmers would end up having to spend so much time filling out forms and reading government instruction manuals and making diaries of their daily activity that they would hardly have time to get any actual work done. Licensed drivers of farm equipment would also need to pass a physical and drug test every two years, and needless to say, there would be all kinds of new fees, taxes, insurance charges, and penalties for small infractions that would continue to drain the pocketbooks of small farmers even if they somehow managed to pay the initial expenses.
The True Reason for the New Regulations
Since the organization responsible for overseeing the implementation of these new rules, if they eventually go into effect, is something called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, it seems reasonable to assume that once these regulations are put in place the publicly stated rationale will have something to do with safety. Never mind the fact that family farms have been operating safely and efficiently since the beginning of the Republic, and that there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that farm machinery presents any kind of a special safety risk to anyone. No, people need protection from evil farm machinery and the ignorant farming families that operate them, and the FMCSA is going to give it to us whether we like it or not.
One has to wonder, however, if that is what this is really all about. For the past several decades, government policy with respect to agriculture and agriculture-related issues has been heavily slanted to favor the needs of agribusiness and factory farmers. Despite the strenuous efforts that have been put forth to drive family farmers permanently off the land, many small farmers are still hanging on, remaining a thorn in the side of the giant farming interests that want to control everything without competition. In fact, the movement toward organic foods has actually allowed smaller-scale farming to make something of a comeback. Perhaps these new rules are a clever way to try and indirectly get rid of small family farmers once and for all. Even though these regulations would put some burden on large-scale farmers, that group would ultimately be able to adjust and survive, and from the perspective of the factory farming industry, a little extra expense now would be no doubt be worth it if it helps them get rid of their last remaining competition.
If the government really does institute these new rules, the real losers will not just be the poor doomed small farmer. They will also be the American people, who will have to stand by and watch helplessly as the giant agribusiness concerns and their factory-farming minions complete their takeover of the American food supply.
©2011 Off the Grid News