It may take a little time before Gov. Bruce Rauner’s harvest emergency declaration is put to good use by Central Illinois farmers.
"It's something, but as far as how useful it is to the average farmer, I'm not sure," Heyworth area farmer Bill Viele said Monday. "Let's just wait and see if we need it."
Rauner has declared a Harvest Season Emergency, allowing farmers to apply to the Illinois Department of Transportation to get a free permit to haul 10 percent over gross vehicle weight and axle weight limits on state highways.
Local road authorities also will have the ability to grant a similar permit or waive the permit requirements on roads within their jurisdictions.
“I don’t think it is of major importance right now,” said Tim Stock, Macon County Farm Bureau executive vice president. “However, we could be looking at wet conditions later in the harvest season, and we may get to a point where farmers need to get as much crop as they possibly can from the fields into storage.
"If we get the kind of yields that we hope to get, then, yes, it could be a big difference.”
The emergency declaration went into effect Monday and will remain in place through Dec. 31. Farmers must carry a copy of the governor’s harvest season emergency proclamation and the route authorization in each overweight vehicle. The IDOT permit and biweekly route authorization can be carried electronically on a smartphone or tablet.
The action bridges the gap between the 2018 harvest season and a new law Rauner signed in August that takes effect next year. Going forward, the measure will allow for an annual harvest-season easing of gross vehicle and gross axle weight limits for agriculture commodities haulers with a free permit.
“This consideration is especially helpful as 2018 has been a difficult year for Illinois farmers,” said Bloomington-based Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr. “They are facing declining incomes, market turmoil due to trade uncertainty, and what is likely to be a record-breaking crop that must be harvested and transported efficiently.
"By making this declaration, the governor is demonstrating he understands the challenges farmers are facing and the importance of an efficient fall harvest.”
Tom Reeves, who farms in Logan County near Lincoln, said he appreciates the fact that state government is attempting to assist Central Illinois farmers.
“I think it’s good any time there is some type of attempt made to assist farmers,” he said. “Now, if we could find some legislation that would help us get some extra revenue, we would be even happier.”
“We have heard from Illinois’ trucking industry and from farmers who are operating on thin profit margins in today’s agricultural climate,” Rauner said before making his announcement on Friday at a farm in Auburn. “Today’s harvest emergency declaration recognizes that the weight-restriction structure in place in Illinois put our farmers and truckers at a disadvantage.”