It is no question that the COVID-19 health crisis has had a profound impact on multiple crucial industries Agriculture and livestock are no exception to this reality, and the sector continues to contend with challenges the virus presents to meet their goals and demands. Some of the measures put in place for our protection, in conjunction with the limitations of current legislation, have threatened to disrupt access to products such as hay bales, alfalfa hay, and livestock. This has necessitated the introduction of legislation that keeps agriculture and livestock workers’ ability to work efficiently, and safely, in mind as they continue to provide crucial product.
Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska has just recently introduced the Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock (HAULS) Act, to provide much needed assistance to livestock haulers. The bill would give livestock haulers much-needed flexibility and relief from hours-of-service (HOS) rules that would allow them to accommodate the spikes in transportation for fiber, food, and agricultural supplies.
The HAULS Act proposes several changes to streamline the logistics of distribution. The legislation would add a 150 air-mile exemption to existing HOS regulations to the backend of hauls for individuals transporting commodities such as livestock, hay bales, alfalfa hay, or a myriad of essential products. The HAULS Act would also eliminate the requirement that agriculture and livestock hours HOS exemptions are only in effect during state designated planted and harvesting seasons. This facet of the proposed legislation acknowledges that most states have already shifted to a year-round model for agricultural exemption. This better accommodates the fact that growing seasons are diverse, and transportation of products and livestock is considered a year-round operation.
Senator Fischer has commented on the vital work that agriculture and livestock haulers perform for the country. Specifically, she has spoken to how they ensure that livestock, food, and feed for livestock such as alfalfa hay and hay bales can be safely distributed. The bill is in line with many of the community members’ belief that haulers are an instrumental part of agriculture and livestock infrastructure and supporting them is within our best interests. To this point, organizations such as the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) have spoken in support of the legislation, as it aligns with the work of several organizations to make distribution more efficient and safer for haulers. Haulers are immensely important to the function of the agriculture and livestock industry and providing them with legislation to perform their tasks is a key facet of ensuring the industry remains strong in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.