Last week, on July 26, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad issued a disaster emergency proclamation that will provide relief to Iowa farmers who are being hit hard by this summer's continued extreme drought.
This proclamation took effect on July 26 and will last for the next 60 days. The assistance comes in the form of a suspension of state laws and regulations affecting the transport of hay, straw and stover. The drought has destroyed or depleted sources of these forages that are necessary for livestock production and livestock feed. Following are the rules and explanation of the proclamation, as released to the media and the general public by the governor's staff.
Specifically, this proclamation allows for several actions to assist farmers
* Overweight loads: Hay, straw and stover may be transported in loads weighing up to 90,000 pounds gross weight without obtaining an overweight permit normally required by the Iowa Department of Transportation. Overweight loads cannot travel on the Interstate highways without a permit. This proclamation issued by Gov. Branstad applies to non-interstate roadways.
Specific axle weight limits do apply. Visit the Iowa DOT's website www.iowa.dot.gov to see the maximum gross weight table and determine the legal limits for your vehicle/trailer combination. A vehicle that is overweight, but not over width, can travel at all hours.
* Over width loads: A vehicle transporting these hay, straw and stover bales can be over width, without an Iowa DOT permit, if they do not exceed 12 feet 5 inches wide. An over width load can travel on any road, including the interstate, as long as its gross weight does not exceed 80,000 pounds. Movement must occur between the hours of 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset. All flags, signs and lights normally required are still needed.
* Overweight and over width loads: A vehicle transporting these goods can be both over width, up to 12 feet 5 inches, and overweight, up to 90,000 pounds. However, these vehicles cannot travel on the interstate.
* Driver hours of service: The driver hours-of-service regulations pertaining to persons transporting these specific agricultural goods are suspended. Certain rest periods must be provided to drivers to prevent fatigued or ill drivers from operating on the roadways.
For additional details, call 800-925-6469 or visit the Iowa DOT's website at www.iowadot.gov where a question and answer sheet can be found.
Leaders pledge continued efforts in addressing the drought's impact Iowa
Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds used their weekly press conference last week to highlight the state's ongoing efforts to address the impact of this summer's drought in Iowa. The most recent USDA drought monitor shows that almost 75% of Iowa is now in the D-2 severe drought stage and roughly 25% in the D-3 extreme drought stage. At the time of the governor and lieutenant governor's drought summit in Mt. Pleasant three weeks ago, just 12% of Iowa's land was considered in a D-2 severe drought stage.
Branstad and Reynolds say they'll continue their efforts, and want to ensure Iowans are aware of the following measures that have been taken thus far:
* Two weeks ago, the governor sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack informing him of the worsening conditions in Iowa, where he requested the secretary to declare Secretarial Disaster designations for Iowa counties as soon as they qualify. Also in the letter, the governor asked the USDA Secretary to open up CRP lands as soon as federal guidelines allow. Vilsack quickly announced the USDA would open CRP lands for emergency grazing in 26 counties in Iowa and that CRP lands will be open for the rest of counties—statewide—on August 2for haying and grazing.
~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~* Also, last week, state-owned land managed by the Iowa DNR was opened for farmers for emergency grazing and haying. Having access to the additional 6,000 acres is something that should provide immediate relief to those who are being impacted by severe drought conditions and who can use the forage provided by this DNR land.
* Another item of significant concern was the need to relax certain rules and regulations that would hinder swift relief for those who need it the most. There is an increasing demand for access to hay, straw and stover for our livestock producers. As a result, the governor approved a proclamation that temporally waives certain weight and width and hours of service requirements for those transporting hay, straw and stover.
* The state opened up DOT roadside ditches as another avenue for our farmers to bail hay. Through this program, farmers can obtain a DOT permit to bail roadside ditches as an economical and efficient way for producers to obtain hay for their livestock.
* Iowa's Beginning Farmer Loan Program, administered by the Iowa Agricultural Development Authority, allows all farmers to obtain low-interest loans to assist them with costs for eligible projects. Despite its name, the program eligibility is not based on the age of the farmer, but rather, the net worth of the applicant.
Other steps being taken to assist livestock farmers impacted by drought
* The governor's staff, along with key state agency staff members, will hold weekly conference calls with the leadership of Iowa farm and commodity associations. The purpose of these calls is to ensure that the concerns and questions of Iowa's drought-impacted farmers and livestock producers are being heard and addressed.
* The administration has launched a website, governor.iowa.gov/drought, to act as a one-stop-shop on all drought-related items and news from state government.
"We want to assure Iowans that every effort will be taken on their behalf with regard to this drought," said Gov. Branstad. "We will work with federal partners, state agencies and departments, and all Iowans as we combat the effects of this drought. This is a top priority of my administration." The lieutenant governor also noted that the Branstad administration is taking a proactive strategy with regard to the drought. "We firmly believe the best way to attack any potential disaster is through a proactive strategy," said Reynolds. "We will continue to engage every department and agency that has a role to play in helping with these efforts."