We all know how difficult it is to run a family farm. Sometimes there are not enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done. From a young age, farm sons and daughters pitch in to help, driving tractors and other farm equipment once they have the skills.
Running a family farm is hard, but now the federal government wants to make it even harder. New regulations from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation are about to come down on all Pennsylvania farms at the worst possible time.
The new regulations would put a number of new requirements on farmers whenever their vehicle travels along, or even just across, a public road. When you think about Pennsylvania farms, you realize that many of them, especially in our area, have roads running through them. Here are just some of the new regulations farmers would have to comply with if they want to drive on a road:
* Anyone under 18 years of age would not be able to drive on the road.
* Drivers would need to be medically tested and certified as physically qualified.
* Drivers would have to keep extensive logs of driving hours and break times.
* Also, Drivers would have to complete reports before and after using the vehicle.
* Finally, drivers would be required to begin and end their work at the same location.
The new regulations would keep licensed teenage drivers from operating equipment on their family farm. Family farmers across the state would lose important members of their workforce, the very people that they would like to hand the farm down to one day. There won't be a farm to hand down if the work doesn't get done. With many farms just scraping by, the loss of help could be the breaking point.
All the new logs and reporting required would eat up time that would be better spent doing the actual work of farming. Do we want farmers to plant and harvest or do we want them to shuffle paperwork? As I stated before, there are only so many hours in a day. Time is money on a farm and all these new reporting requirements will cost farmers money that they may not have.
The USDOT is forcing PennDOT to accept these regulations or give up federal funds. PennDOT is complying for now since these are important funds used to keep all of our roads and highways safe. I know that they have responsibility for roads and not farms, which is why I'm working with my colleagues to prevent USDOT from forcing our state to take action that will hurt our farmers.
Farming is the number one industry in the state of Pennsylvania. It's also an important part of our history and culture. These regulations would apply specifically to Pennsylvania and not necessarily other states. This would place our state and our farmers at a competitive disadvantage when we can least afford it.
Much of this goes to the broader issue of government regulations promoted by the present administration. I don't think that government does a good job of creating jobs, but I most certainly think that government can hurt job growth.
Regulations coming down from Washington can make it much more difficult for businesses to hire new employees, raise costs like healthcare benefits or energy bills and, in some cases, cause a business to shut down all together.
Just in the past year we've seen the Consumer Product Safety Commission shut down factories producing children's toys and the Environmental Protection Agency move to regulate all carbon dioxide sources. In the next few years, I believe we'll see many more job killing regulations come from Washington.
Government certainly has responsibility to ensure safety and clean air, but I believe many new regulations go too far and are not supported by elected officials. I don't want to see government regulators shut down our farms. We need to focus on growing our economy and getting Americans back to work, hurting Pennsylvania farmers is no way to get us there.