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Rep. Ballweg Has Concerns with Current IoH Legislation
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 03/04/2014

A rural Wisconsin lawmaker says she agrees that something needs to be done to clarify the rights farmers have on the roadways when transporting large farm equipment, but Rep. Joan Ballweg is not sold on the current Implements of Husbandry bill before the legislature. Ballweg, who owns a John Deere dealership in Waupun with her husband, penned an editorial on Monday stating that Senate Bill 509 and Assembly Bill 648 has room for improvement--especially when it comes to the permitting process operators must go through in order to comply with the law.

"I'm not alone in this opinion. Not all segments of the ag community have endorsed the proposed legislation," Ballweg wrote.

Specifically, the Markesan Republican is concerned that if local government units go from minimal to no weight enforcement on local roads to a complicated permitting system, it will be too burdensome to keep up with.

As part of the proposal, farmers that exceed certain weight limits would be required to obtain a permit from each township or county they plan to drive through. Ballweg says she would rather see a policy that requires municipal units to notify the public ahead of time, through a DOT website and by legal notice, designating what sections of roads or structures will need prior authorization for use by overweight equipment. Farmers would then appeal to the local unit of government for permission or alternatives on an individual basis as the bill currently specifies.

"This will cut down on paperwork for farmers and municipal governments," she notes. "I believe this alternative gets to the crux of the weight concern."

The current bill also provides an exemption for potato harvesters. Ballweg suggests allowing all seasonal equipment the same exemption.

"That would include harvesting equipment like combines, forage harvesters, specialty vegetable harvesters, and planting equipment like planters, seeders, and drills," Joan wrote.

Rep. Ballweg is requesting that the IoH legislation be modified to add similar language from the Vulnerable Highway User Bill, requiring the Department of Public Instruction to establish standards familiarizing students with the hazards posed by farm machinery, animals, and other slow moving vehicles on highways and instruction in safely dealing with these hazards.

"Our agricultural industry relies on public roadways to get from farm to field, and back again. Not passing a bill this session is not an option. However, the current legislation is not ready and needs consensus from the ag community," the editorial concluded. "That is why we need a bill this session that puts a moratorium on enforcement of current weight limits for up to 18 months. Our farmers can conduct business as usual, and all stakeholders can sit down to find a sustainable solution."

Supporters of the IoH bill are pushing lawmakers to approve the measure before the current legislative session ends next month.

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