Truck loading at Hay Auction

What is being called “common-sense legislation,” the South Dakota House voted unanimously in favor of House Bill 1084, which would increase the maximum height allowed when transporting baled feed on the highway. The bill was due for a hearing before the Senate ag committee today.

The bill, which is sponsored by almost a dozen state representatives, was introduced this session with an emergency clause to activate the new high limites immediately, should it be passed by the Senate and move its way to the governor, who has expressed support for this legislation in the past.

The need for this legislation comes as many producers began voicing concerns over not being able to transport enough feed through spring in South Dakota after a tumultuous few years. Current law allows for bales to reach 14 feet, 3 inches, and the new law would increase that to 15 feet.

“Hay haulers face a lot of challenges to get the hay from the fields to the end-users,” said Frank Kloucek, a former legislator and avid spokesman for the bill. “Hopefully it’ll ease their burdens.”

Kloucek said that over the last year, many farmers have approached ag leaders such as himself about recently getting tickets on the height of their hauls. The current law has stood for more than 20 years, he said, and just now they have begun getting tickets for loads higher than what’s allowed.

“They just weren’t going out and aggressively handing out tickets,” he said. “Now they polished off the old law and started enforcing it.”

Kloucek said he has approached the Department of Transportation about why it has become an issue over the last year but received no concrete answer. During the hearing, Captain John Broers of the South Dakota Highway Patrol spoke on behalf of the department coming out in support of the bill, despite recent confusion over the current enforcement of the old law.

“We feel like this won’t endanger public safety by moving it up to 15 feet,” Broers said during the hearing.

According to data brought by Broers, the Department of Transportation had one documented case of a trucker’s haul hitting a bridge over the interstate and causing an issue. In that case, he said, they were hauling a stack of hay sitting over 16 feet.

Other states in the area, including Nebraska, North Dakota and Minnesota all allow for loads of 15 feet or more.

“Everything has gotten bigger and the bridges are tall enough as well,” Kloucek said.

Rep. Kent Peterson, R-Salem, said this legislation is really just updating the law to what farmers already practice, and what they’ve practiced for some time.

“The long and short of it is they are hauling hay at this height right now,” he said. “It’s happening.”

The South Dakota Farm Bureau, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, and the South Dakota Farmers Union all came out in support of the bill. It’s next reading will be on the House floor, then it could move to the Senate for discussion.

“We’re one-fifth of the way there,” Kloucek said.

Reach Reporter Jager Robinson at 605-335-7300, email jager.robinson@lee.net or follow on Twitter @Jager_Robinson.