SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner didn’t wait long to take advantage of a new law which, under certain conditions and time restraints, can allow vehicles used for transporting harvested crops to carry more gross weight than allowed by state and federal law.
He visited Stewart Farms in Yorkville on Nov. 5 to declare a statewide harvest emergency, effective immediately, that would extend for 45 days. His declaration was attributed to the state’s lagging corn harvest, which was set back by extended rainfall events in some areas of the state.
“Moving corn and other crops in a timely and efficient manner affects the bottom line of hard-working farmers. This declaration is an appropriate response to an urgent need,” he said.
Under a new law signed by Rauner in August, the declaration allows truck drivers transporting agricultural commodities over state highways to apply for a free permit allowing their vehicles to exceed standard gross weight limits by up to 10 percent. Local authorities may waive the permitting process and allow farmers to transport commodities without applying, according to a news release from the office of the governor.
Shortly before Rauner’s proclamation, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported the state’s corn harvest was lagging 17 percent behind 2016 progress and 11 percent behind the five-year average for corn.
Regionalized rainfall significantly delayed corn harvest progress in parts of the northeastern, northwestern and eastern areas of the state, said Jeff Adkisson, executive vice president of the Grain and Feed Assoc. of Illinois (GFAI).
“This year’s crop is a little bit bigger and there is a little more carryover. There is more grain to put out on the ground and if elevators can avail themselves of this higher limit to be able to move the older grain piles out and the new grain in quicker, we will be able to provide a better quality crop,” he said.
“This is a real issue in the northern part of the state, where there is still a significant portion of the crop to get in, but not as much in central Illinois or southern Illinois. I think this proclamation will help those farmers move their grain more efficiently.”
State Rep. Toni McCombie, a Republican from Savanna, co-sponsored House Bill 2580, which amended the state vehicle code to allow trucks to exceed gross weight limits when a governor declares a Harvest Season Emergency. The new law adjusts for varying axle weights in determining how much gross weight a vehicle may haul-- hence the sliding-scale “10 percent” rule. Previously, 80,000 pounds of gross weight was allowed per vehicle, regardless of axle weight variances.
As with other overweight permits, vehicle operators must apply through the highway jurisdiction on whose roads they intend to operate. Multiple permits may be required for transportation through multiple jurisdictions.
A Harvest Season Emergency may be enacted by an Illinois governor for as many days or jurisdictions as they desire in the range of Sept. 1-Dec. 31.
With more than 10 million acres of soybeans to move to harvest, Illinois Soybean Growers Chair Lynn Rohrscheib said Rauner’s proclamation “demonstrates his commitment to agriculture and our local communities.” She urges all farmers and truck drivers to check in with the Illinois Department of Transportation and other local road authorities before hauling overweight loads.
Justin Durdan, president of the Illinois Corn Growers Assoc., said some of the top-yielding areas in the state still had not finished harvest at the time of the governor’s announcement. “Governor Bruce Rauner’s harvest emergency declaration couldn’t have been better timed, as we see this crop report from (NASS) coming out and predicting our average yield at the second highest number on record,” he said.
Some farmers and truck drivers are concerned the language of the new law does not specifically allow for transportation of harvested grains to elevators; rather, the law allows for permit use to and from “storage and market,” according to Adkisson, who would like the law to be better defined.
GFAI, the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Farm Bureau were among those consulted when lawmakers drafted the bill.
More information on the current harvest emergency declaration in Illinois is available online at https://truckpermits.dot.illinois.gov