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Published July 29, 2011, 06:34 PM

New federal license law stirring up controversy

Wolverton, MN (WDAY TV) - A new federal law proposal is stirring up controversy in the farm land. The Department of Transportation is considering commercial drivers licenses for anyone who drives a tractor, pulls a cattle trailer and drives a farm licensed semi.

A new federal law proposal is stirring up controversy in the farm land. The Department of Transportation is considering commercial drivers licenses for anyone who drives a tractor, pulls a cattle trailer and drives a farm licensed semi. It would also regulate hours worked in a week. That could make it a lot tougher to hire farm help and harvest crop.

All you need is a regular driver’s license to drive tractors like these now. Long haul semi drivers and bus drivers go through vigorous testing that can cost hundreds of dollars. And the new regulation could mean farmers would have to work less and couldn't hire hands as easy as they can now.

Farming isn't a job, or just a paycheck for many around here. It's a way of life, and that's no different for Kit Nichol.

Kit Nichol – Longtime Family Farmer: "Being a part of something like a harvest, it’s just exciting. It’s just fun."

She and her family have farmed for more than 20 years. Their kids grew up driving tractors, and if help was needed, they would hire on someone else. But that may change.

Nichol: "How many people get hit by a tractor in a year? If your standing in the way in the middle of the field maybe. But it’s just something that makes a whole lot of nonsense."

A new regulation proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association would require everyone who drives a tractor, pulls a cattle trailer and drives a farm registered semi to get a commercial drivers license. But that’s not where it ends. Commercial drivers also need to pay highway use taxes and limit hours worked in a week-Possibly meaning an end to the late night harvest.

Doug Goehring – Ag Commissioner: “This is insane. You start limiting the time they can work and what they can do, I guess the next question is how much do you want to pay for food?”

Farmers and ag experts say limiting hours, tracking miles and searching for CDL certified help would deal a huge blow to family farms like the Nichols near Wolverton.

Nichol: "That it’s just one more form of regulation trying to control people and really make everything more expensive."

The regulation proposal is open for public comment until Monday.

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