Milk hauling amendment back in Transportation Bill

Dairy producer and processor organizations praised a congressional conference report that includes a dairy-specific amendment regarding truck weight limits for milk haulers.

The conference, meeting to iron out differences between House and Senate transportation bills, approved an amendment giving states the option to issue permits allowing milk haulers to increase their truck weights beyond Interstate Highway System limits. This would allow milk trucks in some states to carry more product without being forced to offload portions of it at other state borders.

Leaders of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) said the amendment would benefit producers, processors and consumers. They urged Congress to pass the report so that it can reach President Obama's desk by the Dec. 4 deadline.

The bipartisan amendment was sponsored by Reps. Richard Hanna of New York and Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, and championed by House Transportation Committee Conferee Rep. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin. It was supported by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the Senate and House.

"If passed, fewer vehicles would be needed to transport milk, cutting transportation costs and easing the burden on farmers, consumers and commuters," said IDFA President and CEO Connie Tipton.  

"This amendment recognizes the specific challenges in transporting milk," said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. "It's great to see bipartisan support for something so critical to our dairy producers." 

A House vote on the so-called "Highway Bill," approved Nov. 5,  had defeated an amendment that would have allowed – but not mandated – 17 states to increase their interstate weight limits from 80,000 lbs. gross weight to 91,000 lbs. A sixth axle would be required to be added to all trucks carrying heavier weights. Read: Ag-friendly amendments exit Highway Bill

The bipartisan agreement comes as part of a massive push by Congress to deal with several pieces of legislation before they adjourn for the year.