State looks to change farm-implement rules

State looks to change farm-implement rules

The state is looking to change the rules for farm implements for the first time in 50 years.

It’s to try to keep you safer on the road, but still let farmers use newer, bigger equipment.

The Department of Transportation has been working for the last year with agriculture stakeholder groups to look at the rules of the road for farm implements, and has developed new recommendations for the sizes of “implements of husbandry.”

Limits on weight as well as size are included — implements can be 15 feet wide, 13 feet 6 inches tall and 60 to 100 feet long depending on the number of implements combined.

The aim of the recommendations is to make the roads safer for everyone.

“We want to make sure that agriculture is successful and can use modern equipment, but things need to be synced up or the public is at risk as well,” said Dave Vieth, director of the the Bureau of Highway Maintenance.

Paoli-area farmer John Sayles said driving the increasingly large equipment is a challenge in his area.

“I move machinery that is 16 feet wide at times and we have a town road I use often that is only about 20 feet wide,” said Sayles.

That winding town road in the town of Montrose features blind curves, crests of hills and narrow shoulders, issues on many rural roads across the state.

“It’s quite a challenge, really,” said Sayles. “This is prime bicycling country. We are close to Madison and we worry constantly about that.”

The guidelines put together by the study group aren’t yet final and the Farm Bureau is encouraging everyone to speak up.

State looks to change farm-implement rules

“It’s a good starting point for discussion,” said Paul Zimmerman, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation executive director of governmental relations. “I’m sure there will be some input from the farmer and non-farmer side of things saying maybe they should be taller or wider or heavier or not quite as heavy. So that’s why it’s a discussion.”

Seeing how the guidelines affect those with big equipment or those who have to get around it, farmers say, is really where the rubber hits the road.

“I think they should probably set some guidelines,” said Sayles. “But not guidelines that are going to force anyone out of the farming business.”

The DOT and Department of Agriculture are hosting town hall meetings across the state on the issue starting Monday in Madison and will eventually send recommendations to lawmakers.

All meetings, co-hosted by the University of Wisconsin Extension, will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the dates and locations listed below:

Aug. 19 — UW Extension Office, 5201 Fen Oak Drive, Madison
Aug. 20 — Country Aire Banquet Hall, F1312 County Road P, Stratford
Aug. 28 — Cashton Community Hall, 8111 Main Street, Cashton
Aug. 29 — WisDOT US 41 Brown County Field Office, 1940 West Mason Street, Green Bay
Sept. 3 — Chippewa County Courthouse Large Assembly Room, 711 North Bridge Street, Chippewa Falls