Farmers’ ability to efficiently transport crops during harvest proved key to the General Assembly’s passage of HB 5749. Illinois Farm Bureau supported the bipartisan legislation sponsored by a Senate Republican and a House Democrat.
Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, and Rep. Natalie Phelps Finnie, D-Elizabethtown, sponsored the bill that would allow farmers to apply for a special permit from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). (Farmers would be required to also apply to local jurisdictions.) The legislation heads to Gov. Bruce Rauner.
“This will really help us to get the crop out when the weather is bad,” said Gallatin County Farm Bureau President Hugh David Scates of Shawneetown. “It’s hard to judge how many pounds are on a semi when you’re in the field.”
Farmers approached Phelps Finnie about difficulties hauling crops from the field during the harvest time crunch, she recalled.
In addition to harvest inefficiencies that cost Illinois farmers time and money, local businesses lost money when farmers from adjacent states stopped hauling grain to Illinois elevators because their states allowed heavier loads that were illegal when they crossed into Illinois, the representative explained. “This bill is a great opportunity to create business parity,” she said.
Fowler echoed those sentiments, noting the legislation makes Illinois farmers and ag businesses more economically competitive with those in Kentucky, Missouri and Indiana.
The senator added the new legislation would not require a gubernatorial declaration of a harvest season emergency before farmers could apply each year for a free IDOT permit that would be effective from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.
“This will give farmers ease of mind about a permit. Going into harvest, they will have an opportunity to apply for a permit,” Fowler said.
Related: Recap other highlights from the General Assembly session. Read more here.
Under the bill, a farmer would apply to IDOT for a free permit to haul up to 10 percent more than the gross vehicle weight on a state route, excluding interstate highways. A farmer would need to seek a free permit from each road jurisdiction on the roads he or she travels as well. Each local jurisdiction may also waive the requirement to carry a written permit.
“IFB appreciates the hard work of Senator Fowler and Representative Phelps Finnie,” said Bill Bodine, IFB associate director of state legislation. Bodine acknowledged assistance from Sens. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, and Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles; and Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, “to achieve a good result for farmers.”
“We want to thank them for getting this done,” Scates added. “We appreciate it.”