MT, WY, ND, SD, NE allow weight increases for commercial vehicles |

MT, WY, ND, SD, NE allow weight increases for commercial vehicles

Hannah Gill
for Tri-State Livestock News

Aside from commodity prices, life hasn’t changed much for agricultural producers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as agricultural production continues to be deemed an essential infrastructure. Throughout Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, life generally remains the same, at least until rural residents travel to town.

Steve Nelson, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau, said during a press conference with Governor Pete Ricketts on March 24, that in certain parts of the state, social distancing isn’t hard, but farmers and ranchers still have business to deal with.

“We need supplies, we’re delivering products, so it’s important to talk about how we’re doing those things differently under these circumstances,” Nelson said. “We’ve also been working to make sure that the supply chain to farmers and ranchers is something that will work as we make our way through calving season and work our way through the planting season where in both cases, timing is very critical.”

Governors from each of the above mentioned states have issued executive orders allowing increased weight for transportation of essential services to supply food, medical supplies, farm inputs, feed and hay.

“By creating some flexibility for transport and deliveries during this challenging time, we can ensure Montana’s supply chain remains strong and food and medical supplies can get where they’re needed most without delay,” Governor Bullock said in a press release.

Commercial drivers are still required to abide by the “hours of service” requirements, but for Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, the directive allows a 10 percent increase to the legal weight for commercial vehicles.

“Delays to farm input deliveries may threaten farmers’ ability to get in the fields in adequate time for planting or dealing with a crop emergence. Delays in feed and hay shipments cause ranchers to suffer unnecessary animal losses. And delays in the supply chain cause unneeded stress to the ability of grocery stores, farmers, ranchers, and hospitals to provide critical services,” according to Governor Bullock’s office.

As of now, there are no restrictions on livestock movements or for livestock operations, aside from the recommended social distancing: remain at least six feet apart and don’t gather in groups of 10 or more.

“The main thing is the food supply chain represents critical infrastructure and those workers are essential,” says Derek Grant, public information officer for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. “Goods can be delivered and work can be done to continue the vital work of agriculture, but make sure you’re maintaining that social distancing and trying to limit the spread of this as much as possible.”

Despite the lack of inter-state travel restrictions, Grant says that Governor Gordon did issue a directive for out of state travelers, along with the governors for Montana and North Dakota, saying that that anyone returning to, or coming into their respective states for non-work related travel must self-quarantine for 14 days to prevent inadvertently spreading the disease, while South Dakota and Nebraska simply recommend the precaution.

“It comes down to the criticality of agriculture, agriculture production, agriculture transportation, and processing,” said Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture during a press conference on March 24. “Our role at the state is to do the critical aspects of that, whether for interstate commerce, testing, transportation and keeping materials flowing back and forth so exports continue, so products can get to processors and so processed products can get to the consumers. Those are critical to the state, to the nation and to feeding people around the world.”

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