Saturday, June 25, 2011

We're special, Example #78...  

Farmers in IL and probably elsewhere are less than thrilled by impending motor carrier regulations that until now applied only to other folks.
A large percentage of Cornbelt farms have semi-trailer trucks to more efficiently handle high capacity harvesting equipment.  While some of those trucks have limited use other than harvest, many others become a second home for farmers who work as commercial carriers when they are not farming.  Although they have the required commercial drivers’ licenses and many of their trucks have US Department of Transportation registration, many will not be happy to learn the DOT is working its way down further into their farming operation.  Buckle your seat belt.
The US Department of transportation has an internal administrative staff to develop rules and regulations and implement those for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act. It is designed to enhance safety on public roadways, and part of the rules are licensing and registration for commercial vehicles used in interstate commerce.  Over the road truck and bus drivers know all about the FMCSA and its rules.  And many farmers who obtained a commercial drivers license from their state department of motor vehicles will be familiar with many of those regulations, and may already have a USDOT number on their vehicle if it has been driven across a state line. [More]
Notice the outraged comments and helpful information in the comments to the above post, but there is a big part of the issue conspicuously absent:

Why should farmers be exempt from these rules?

There may be a case for why my truck loaded with grain should be regulated differently from your truck loaded with carpet, but I don't see any compelling arguments.  Instead we have these rather familiar assertions:
  1. It will cost money. 
  2. It will be a hassle.
  3. Farmers are different.
Since the overall goal of the regulatory effort is safety, where are the data showing we aren't part of the problem? Or conversely, why aren't we equally outraged at all the other trucks being taxed/regulated/hassled?

What makes us so special?

This is not an issue about regulatory outreach or taxation.  It's what happens when special political treatment of farmers ends.

(Yes, I will be affected, since I live 2 miles from the state line.)


Steve said...

It seems that over time you have increasingly used your blog to comment on the hypocrisies of farmers. One could get the impression that farmers are a greedy lot who think they should be exempt from all of the rules that everyone else should live by.

Just curious, what good things do you have to say about the stereotypical farmer?

Anonymous said...

Lots of good things too say about stereotypical farmers,if its good for me it must be good for everybody and we are "special"-regards-kevin

John Phipps said...


Since the advent of the ubiquitous "agvocacy" campaigns, flattery for farmers is all over our media. Why duplicate that effort?

As for praise for stereotypical farmers, I admire people one at a time, not in groups or by profession. I have talked about people I respect and the reasons why occasionally, I think.

That said, if you think my criticism is unfair or incorrect, let me know - I'll rethink my comments.

John Phipps said...


I have mulled over your comment and will offer this concern I have about the hypocrisy I (perhaps too) frequently point out.

First, I think it is indicative of a skewed, and flawed, world vision. People who think it's all about them usually meet stunning rebukes either socially or economically. I am deeply concerned farmers are being manipulated by those who whisper to us we are special.

Second, the greatest joys in my life have been when I have served others - not when others serve me. I do not fool myself in thinking this blog is a service to you, but on those instances when I have truly used my skills and resources to solve a problem for another, I have known an abiding satisfaction. The current atmosphere does not foster farmers thinking of themselves as servants. I think this is bad for us and bad for others.

Finally, it has been my good fortune to have multiple careers - Navy, media, and farming. I have seen farming from without and known other ways of life from within. We risk losing contact with others by constantly setting ourselves apart and demanding different treatment. This will, I believe intensify our isolation and reward those who can see another POV.

Your comments are perceptive, and I appreciate your reading and helping me to find my root convictions.

Steve said...

Fair enough. I think many of your comments about the hypocrisies of farmers are accurate. However, I think that your current media position causes you to be surrounded and be in contact much more with the agvocacy people than the typical farmer. The companies buying ads to sell to farmers have an obvious reason to flatter. There is also a minority group of farmers that tend to attend seminars and participate in the various trade associations. That group tends to be more more about claiming benefits and turf.

The majority of the farmers do not participate in those events and don't believe all of the flattery they hear from the people buying ads. Most of the farmers have children that have left the farm and report back to them the public's opinion of farmers. Most farmer's realize that ethanol is hated. They know that farm subsidies are despised by the public. Most simply want to be able to buy insurance that keeps them from going broke in the case of a natural disaster. Most would love to see the government get out of farming and out of subsidies.

Yes, there are many farmer's with hypocritical positions. But keep in mind that your media position and your speaking profession puts you into contact with a sub-set of farmers that tends to be a bit more on the agvocacy side.

I think it is kind of like the teachers associations. The people that get actively involved advocating special benefits for teachers, or any profession for that matter, don't always fairly represent the views of the local teacher. The associations of whatever profession have an incentive to flatter and advocate for special status for their members. And I agree that they often over do it.

But I don't think it fair for me to paint your wife as having the faults or views that I see the national and state teacher's associations has having even though I suspect she pays dues.