Even after the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a statement saying that it will not require farmers to obtain commercial driver's licenses (CDLs), members of the right-wing media continued to promote the claim.
August 10: DOT Says "No Regulations Will Be Proposed For Any New Safety Requirements Or Changes To The Rules"
DOT: "We Want To Make Crystal Clear That We Are Not Imposing Any New Regulations." From an August 10 Department of Transportation press release:
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced today that it has no intention to propose new regulations governing the transport of agricultural products. The agency also released guidance designed to make sure states clearly understand the common sense exemptions that allow farmers, their employees, and their families to accomplish their day-to-day work and transport their products to market.
After hearing from concerned farmers earlier this year, FMCSA initiated this review to make sure states don't go overboard in enforcing regulations on agricultural operators, and to ensure consistent access to exemptions for farmers. No regulations will be proposed for any new safety requirements or changes to the rules governing the transport of agricultural products, farm machinery, or farm supplies to or from a farm.
"We have no intention of instituting onerous regulations on the hardworking farmers who feed our country and fuel our economy," said Secretary Ray LaHood. "Farmers deserve to know that reasonable, common sense exemptions will continue to be consistently available to agricultural operations across the country, and that's why we released this guidance."
This guidance -- which does not impose any new rules on farmers -- follows the Federal Register public notice which FMCSA issued on May 31, 2011, asking farmers, farm organizations and the public to give input on the agency's longstanding safety rules.
"We want to make it absolutely clear that farmers will not be subjected to new and impractical safety regulations," said U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari. "The farm community can be confident that states will continue to follow the regulatory exemptions for farmers that have always worked so well."
"FMCSA is pleased with the input we've received from the agricultural community and members of Congress. We received about 1700 comments and the vast majority called for us to preserve the guidance that leaves states to carry out the farm exceptions as they have for many years." said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. "We want to make crystal clear that we are not imposing any new regulations." [Department of Transportation, 8/10/11]
FactCheck.org: Call For Comments On Exemptions Generated "Misinformation." From FactCheck.org:
Here's what happened: Under federal law, the Transportation Department requires minimum standards that states must enforce when issuing commercial driver's licenses. The DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said that states "may be taking varied approaches" to exempting farmers from those requirements, and may be applying the exemption "inconsistently." So, the agency launched a review, asked for public comments and promised to issue regulatory guidance "to help ensure uniform application of the safety regulations."
That request for public comments, which was published May 31 in the Federal Register, generated a storm of criticism and concern -- and misinformation. The National Sorghum Producers posted a blog item Aug. 4 that carried this headline: "A CDL to drive a tractor? Another burdensome regulation looms over ag." The blog said: "The proposal from USDOT would force those who operate any farm machinery, i.e. tractors and combines, to have a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)."
On Aug. 10, the DOT issued a press release saying it had "no intention to propose new regulations." It did, as promised, issue new regulatory guidance "designed to make sure states clearly understand the common sense exemptions that allow farmers, their employees, and their families to accomplish their day-to-day work and transport their products to market." [FactCheck.org, 8/16/11]
WSJ: "The Rumor Went Viral." From the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog:
Earlier this year, the State of Illinois began regulating certain kinds of farmers as commercial motor vehicle drivers, a move that caused a lot of consternation in the Illinois farming community, seeing as it would require stiff new driving tests, periodic drug testing and other hurdles. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration stepped in to clarify whether the states had the right to do what Illinois had done, and on May 31, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a public notice asking for comment on the commercial licensing of farm equipment.
Many in the farm community saw that notice as evidence that federal regulations were brewing, and the rumor went viral. That speeded up the process in Washington. Last Wednesday, the agency moved to put the issue to rest. The guidance the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration put out did exactly opposite what Gov. Perry said. It told the states "the common sense exemptions that allow farmers, their employers, and their families to accomplish their day-to-day work and transport their products to market" should remain in place.
"We have no intention of instituting onerous regulations on the hardworking families who feed our country and fuel our economy," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, himself an Illinoisan and a Republican, said in the agency's statement Aug. 10. [The Wall Street Journal, Washington Wire, 8/16/11]
August 12: Despite Debunking, Right-Wing Media Claims That CDL Requirement For Farm Equipment Is Imminent
Gateway Pundit: "Now Obama Wants To Force Farmers To Get Commercial Drivers Licenses." Jim Hoft wrote at Gateway Pundit: "Unreal. Now Obama wants to force farmers to get commercial drivers licenses." [Gateway Pundit, 8/12/11]
American Thinker: "DOT Targets Farm Tractors." Rosslyn Smith wrote at the American Thinker blog, "The Federal government now proposes to require that motorized farm equipment carry DOT id numbers and that all users have a commercial drivers license," adding: "What's next from the Obama administration? Will HHS require all parents to have a nursing license before they can dispense an orange flavored low dose aspirin tablet to their child?" [American Thinker, 8/12/11]
Claim Based On Erroneous News Article Published After DOT Statement Was Issued. Both Hoft and Smith linked their posts to an August 12 article by the Gazette Virginian newspaper in South Boston, Virginia. The article said, "A new rule being proposed by the federal Department of Transportation would require farmers to get commercial drivers licenses," but did not note the DOT's statement from two days earlier that "no new regulations will be proposed." A follow-up article by the Gazette Virginian quoted from the DOT news release, but did not note that it was issued before the paper's original article was published. [Gazette Virginian, 8/12/11, 8/15/11]
WND Cites "Intention" To Require CDL As Part Of Plan To Impose "Control Over Rural America." A WorldNetDaily column by Henry Lamb cited "the Department of Transportation's recent announcement of its intention to reclassify farm vehicles and implements as 'commercial' vehicles and require all drivers of these vehicles to hold a Commercial Driver's License" as part of a plan to impose "control" over "rural America" by the Obama administration and the United Nations. [WorldNetDaily, 8/12/11]