Representatives request task force to examine current wheat harvest licensing and regulations

Oklahoma City- Two Oklahoma lawmakers are concerned that recent changes in the regulation of wheat harvest have led to confusion and increased costs for state harvesters. State Reps. James Covey and Ryan McMullen have requested a task force to study the matter during the interim.

Earlier this year, enforcement of a state law requiring harvesters to show proof of equipment insurance and a permit to operate in Oklahoma changed hands from the Oklahoma Tax Commission to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, leading many farmers to complain of delays due to inspections that cost them precious harvesting time.

“This is a conflict of two agencies issuing licenses to custom harvesters that must be resolved,” said Covey, D-Custer City. “Our goal for the task force is to evaluate current law for conflicts and make corrections for the upcoming legislative session.”

During the recent wheat harvest, farmers and grain elevator managers across the state complained about increased regulation by the Corporation Commission as it attempted to ensure equipment used for cutting was properly insured and permitted. In the past, inspection was handled by the Tax Commission, and many custom harvesters have been caught off-guard by the shift, said Covey.

“The current process is more complicated than just showing insurance verification,” said McMullen, D-Burns Flat. “There's some state registration fees that you've got to pay along with providing direct verification of coverage from an insurance company. It's a time-consuming process that should and must be streamlined.”

Joe Neal Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association, said the Corporation Commission initially was requiring harvesters to go to Oklahoma City for a permit if they did not already have one. But a change allowed enforcement agents to issue a permit on site, saving time and money.

Other complaints have originated from co-op managers and harvesters that say the commission set up inspection sites near co-ops and grain elevators, creating congestion and causing harvesters to be out of the fields longer than necessary. On a good day, a crew will run several trucks of grain from the field and return as quickly as possible to avoid delaying the cutting process.

“The Corporation Commission has been willing to work with us in ceasing much of the heavy-handed enforcement we saw earlier in the harvest season,” said McMullen. “But given the headaches this has caused so many of us in agriculture, we're going to push for some serious reforms in harvest regulations.”

Farmers already have to deal with other problems, such as rain and equipment failure, that slow down harvest and should not have that coupled with complicated and confusing regulations, said McMullen.

“I feel confident we can use some common sense and come up with some streamlined rules for our harvesters and farmers.”

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