Two Republican legislators in Wisconsin told the 1,800 attendees of the Corn/Soy Expo held February 6-7 in the Wisconsin Dells that new laws regulating the size and use of farm equipment on state roads would give farmers more leeway with large equipment than they currently have, according to a report in the Wisconsin State Farmer publication.

The two legislators, Rep. Keith Ripp (R-Lodi) and Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon), urged those in attendance to support the proposed legislation currently under consideration; Assembly Bill 648 and the identical companion bill SB 509 in the state Senate.

"If we don't pass this, you will be seeing more of your local sheriff's department," said Ripp. Both lawmakers said farmers need contact their legislators to urge passage of the bill.

Six counties have purchased portable scales to weigh large farm implements in order to ticket them and keep them off the roads, the men added. "If they have them, they're going to use them," said Ripp.

Petrowski said the issue came to a head when tickets were issued in Marathon County last year and the large farm manure spreader in question was impounded — with its load.

The large manure spreader that began the discussion in Marathon County went through a subdivision and the police were called. When they weighed it they discovered it was 37,000 pounds over weight. The equipment sat for several days because they had to figure out how to make it legal by getting some of the weight off it.

"Nobody's getting everything they want and that's a sign that it's probably a pretty good bill," said Ripp, who chairs the Assembly Transportation Committee.

The legislation is based on a task force that worked on recommendations all of last year and included the Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection as well as 20 stakeholders — farmers, machinery dealers and municipalities.

"They tried to find answers that everybody can live with. Keith and I have to be able to sell it to 132 lawmakers," said Petrowski. "We need counties, towns and the agriculture community on board."

Petrowski said he thinks they can pass the bill. "It's not perfect. We had to give up things." One of those concessions was in the permitting system.

"It's doable, not perfect and some farmers won't like it. The counties and towns think they gave away too much too," Petrowski added.

The proposal would allow farmers 15% more weight than is currently allowed under the law. It would also spell out length, width and height requirements as well as requirements for reflectors, flashers and reflective tape on implements.

The 15% number was used, said Petrowski, because it's the level used in the fall harvest exemption, which is based on available science.

"Towns and counties said if you go to 20% over (the current limits), it cuts down on the roads' life by 100%," he added.

Read the full report from the Wisconsin State Farmer at: