Growers, custom operators and other ag businesses are closer to each being able to haul up to 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel at a time without having to get a Hazardous Materials endorsement (HazMat). Two bills asking to ease diesel-fuel hauling restrictions are now before Congress.

“But we need to get all producers, custom harvesters and other ag people who this issue affects to contact their representatives and their senators and ask them to co-sponsor the bills,” says Tracy Zeorian, president of U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. (USCHI). The bills are H.R. 2429 (see bit.ly/mX4KOq) and S. 1288 (see bit.ly/puHBTM).

USCHI has been working for 20 years toward increasing the amount of diesel fuel, currently at 119 gallons, that a custom harvester with a Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) can transport without having to obtain a HazMat.

Right now, farmers have exemptions to transport up to 502 gallons each, says Zeorian. “The custom harvester has the ability to only haul up to 119 gallons and 119 gallons in these big pieces of equipment, whether it’s a forage harvester or a combine, just doesn’t cut it.”

Harvesters frequently have to make multiple trips from fuel stations to fields, wasting time and money during the busy harvest season, points out Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), who sponsored the House version.

“Current federal law makes it very difficult for some farmers and custom harvesters to transport the amount of fuel necessary for a single day of field operation with today’s agricultural equipment,” he wrote in a letter urging colleague support of H.R. 2429.

“My bill would allow custom harvesters, agricultural retailers, agricultural business employees, agricultural cooperative employees and agricultural producers to haul up to 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel if the service vehicle is clearly marked with a placard reading ‘Diesel Fuel,’ without having to obtain a Hazardous Materials endorsement.”

The HazMat fee is minimal, says Zeorian. The sticky point is a 90-day processing time. “Most custom harvesters don’t hire their employees much more than two weeks before they are ready to leave. Another issue is regarding the foreign employees who are not allowed to apply for HazMats. A large portion of our members are hiring H2A foreign employees.”

The Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), with co-sponsor senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Bob Nelson (D-NE).

“I’m hoping the bills will be reviewed by other senators and representatives so we can get additional support. Washington needs to understand that a change in the law is the common-sense fix that needs to be done,” Zeorian says. “We created a letter for our membership that’s being sent to their representatives and to their senators. It refers to the custom harvesting community alone – if producers were going to use it, they would want to tweak it.”

The letter points out one more justification for the exemption. Much of the equipment holds 250 gallons or more of fuel. With the exemption, the public would be exposed to fewer fuel trips throughout the day.

To view Senate and House versions of the letter, visit bit.ly/oG7iot. To identify Congressional members and get their contact information, visit 1.usa.gov/4yLnaI and 1.usa.gov/3UAs.