Implements of Husbandry and Town and State Roads

Last night, Bakke Norman attorney Tim O’Brien attended one of six town hall meetings being held by the Implements of Husbandry Study Group. The Study Group is being led by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). There are representatives from numerous agriculture groups, associations and businesses, the Wisconsin Towns and Wisconsin County Highway Associations, the UW Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, UW-Madison Department of Biological Systems Engineering and UW-Extension. The purpose of the Study Group is “to explore options that would restore the balance that supports Wisconsin’s vital and diverse agricultural industry, while at the same time preserving the public’s investment in state and local roads and bridges and provide safe travels for all users.”

Approximately 100 people were in attendance at the meeting in Chippewa Falls. If the first four meetings were similar to last night’s, it is fair to say the Study Group has been engaged in spirited discussion! Over 70% of the attendees were farmers or elected officials. Other attendees included equipment dealers, agricultural industry and trade group representatives, interested citizens and local state legislators. Representatives from the DOT, DATCP, Wisconsin Towns Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau and the State Patrol led the meeting. They presented the preliminary recommendations the Study Group was proposing to send to the legislature, but acknowledged the input that had been received at the first four meetings had already led them to consider changes to the recommendations.

Included here are links to three documents. The first is the overview of the preliminary recommendations of the Study Group. It includes the Study Group’s proposed changes to current Implements of Husbandry law, a comparison of the current law and the Study Group’s proposed changes, and a Proposed Implements of Husbandry Weight Table. It is important to emphasize these recommendations are not yet finalized. There was considerable debate at the meeting about whether the proposals adequately address the reality of today’s farm implements and vehicles, whether the DOT or local government officials should be responsible for granting any exemptions, and how the proposed changes would affect other industries, such as logging and frac sand mining. That is why your immediate input on these issues is important.

The Study Group intends to finalize its recommendations in the next few weeks, with the goal being to draft legislation to be introduced in the State Senate and Assembly during the upcoming fall session. There is less than one week remaining to provide additional information to the Study Group. Linked here are two surveys. The first is directed to farmers, including those who provide custom operator services. The second is directed to local elected officials and citizens. Please take a moment to complete the survey and return it by email to IoHStudyFeedback@dot.wi.gov. You can send any comments to the same email address. You may also send your completed survey by mail to: IoH Study Group Survey, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 4802 Sheboygan Avenue, Room 451, P.O. Box 7965, Madison, WI 53707-7965.

For further information about this issue, visit http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/business/ag/docs/final-ioh-phase2-report.pdf. A print-friendly version of this article and linked documents can be found here.