Sen. Ron Johnson, R-WI, called for flexibility for America’s dairy farmers in the recently-passed Surface Transportation bill.
The Wisconsin senator joined Sens. Chris Murphy, D-CT, Patrick Leahy, D-VT, Mike Crapo, R-ID, Al Franken, D_MN, Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, Kelly Ayotte, D-NH, Jim Risch, R-ID, and Angus King, I-ME, in sending a letter to bipartisan leaders on the conference committee asking that the final bill allow bulk milk trucks to carry milk without being forced to offload portions, which increases food safety risks for consumers and costs for dairy farmers.
“Each day, more than 12,500 bulk milk trucks pick up milk at farms across the country and move it to over 2,000 processing plants. The transportation of milk is an issue that affects businesses and consumers in every region and in every state,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to support language that was included in the House-passed version of H.R. 22, the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, that would classify milk as a non-divisible load. This provision would allow states to issue special permits to bulk milk trucks, giving them more flexibility to ensure that milk is delivered in a timely manner and in compliance with federal and state food safety and security standards.”
By classifying milk as a non-divisible load, this provision acknowledges that milk cannot be easily divided or dismantled between farms and processing plants.
“Milk is a perishable product that must be sealed for safety and transported quickly. When milk truckers pick up bulk milk, they must load the entire stock of bulk milk that a farm produced that day — not just the amount of milk that would keep the trucker in compliance with state truck weight limits,” the senators wrote. “This is problematic because the amount of milk produced at a farm varies from day-to-day, based on weather, feed, and other factors. As a result, milk truckers perpetually risk being overweight. While milk truckers can break the seal and offload a portion of the milk to bring their truck weight into compliance, doing so increases transportation time and compromises the safety and security of the milk.”
Current law already permits states to issue special permits for non-divisible loads, such as trees, boats, or any other products whose integrity would be compromised through division. Adding milk to the list of products that qualify as non-divisible loads would improve the safety and security of bulk milk. What’s more, this provision would improve the stability of trucks loaded with fluid milk.
“As the Conference Committee deliberates which provisions will be included in the final version of the DRIVE Act, we strongly urge your support the inclusion of this important milk classification,” the letter concluded.
The language, offered by Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-CT-5, and Richard Hanna, R-NY-22, was included in the House-passed version of the bill but was not included the bill passed by the Senate.