Simplified Wheat Harvest Regulations Get Sooner House Committee Approval
Oklahoma City- State lawmakers voted Monday to simplify the regulatory process faced by Oklahoma's wheat harvesters, eliminating bureaucratic hassles that dramatically impacted last year's wheat harvest.
House Bill 2895, by State Rep. Ryan McMullen, was filed after Oklahoma farmers found themselves hogtied with red tape created when the Oklahoma Corporation Commission was given additional regulatory oversight of harvesters.
“Eking out a living in agriculture is already a challenge; the state shouldn't add to the burden,” said McMullen, D-Burns Flat.
“Farmers already face a severe drought and rising fuel costs - throwing excessive government regulation into the mix was adding salt to a wound.”
Oklahoma wheat farmers normally hire out-of-state custom harvesters, who have the necessary trucks, combines and equipment to harvest wheat and transport it to market. State law requires a permit for out-of-state commercial contractors to perform services in Oklahoma as well as proof of equipment insurance. In recent years, lawmakers placed the Oklahoma Corporation Commission in charge of enforcing those regulations - with unexpected complications ensuing.
Because the Corporation Commission did not have the authority to sell permits in the field, confusion resulted in major fines for harvesters or prompted many to drive hundreds of miles to Oklahoma City to obtain the proper permits in person last summer.
In addition, inspection sites were set near grain elevators, creating congestion and causing harvesters to be out of the fields longer than necessary. The congestion ultimately cost Oklahoma farmers money as their trucks sat idle.
House Bill 2895 would prevent such inspections within two miles of a grain elevator and allow for a 10-percent variance on weight regulations for trucks leaving the fields. These reforms are designed to help speed the harvest process and save farmers and harvesters money.
The permit process is streamlined under McMullen's bill by requiring only a single permit per harvest crew, verifying insurance coverage, and charging a flat fee of $35 per axle.
“This should create the simplest permitting process of any wheat-producing state in the nation,” said McMullen. “Simply count your axles and take your vehicle information to the local tag office or nearby Corporation Commission officer. They should have you back in the field in no time.”
House Bill 2895 passed out of the House Agriculture and Rural
Development Committee on Monday. It now proceeds to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
“The heavy fines issued last summer as the result of excessive and confusing regulation were passed on to the farmer,” McMullen said.
“Those unnecessary costs eat into the farmer's bottom line and ultimately hurt our rural economies. House Bill 2895 will eliminate the excessive regulation while still protecting public safety.”
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