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Local action protects area farmers from road restriction

Published Jul. 16, 2009 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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Buckeye Farm News

Harrison County Farm Bureau took immediate action when a village council talked about enforcing the weight limit on a road used by chicken producers. Enforcing the road’s weight limit appeared to specifically target the farmers and would have forced them to use an alternate route that would have added 17 miles to their trip.

“This is a great success story for a county Farm Bureau,” said Larry Gearhardt, Ohio Farm Bureau’s senior director of local affairs.

In May, Cadiz Village Council held its regular meeting and planned to discuss enforcing a 5-ton weight limit on city streets, specifically a side street to the town’s downtown, which is used by chicken farmers who supply nearby Case Farms. Harrison County Farm Bureau members had heard about the proposal and showed up at the council meeting.

This issue wasn't pushed that night, but local farmers knew it wasn’t over. The county Farm Bureau started taking steps to show how enforcing the weight limit would hurt the county’s economy and may be illegal. Nan Still, Ohio Farm Bureau’s director of agricultural law information, was in the area and stopped in to talk to council members about the legalities of the issue.

“Having weight limitations can’t be done in a discriminatory fashion. It has to be based on studies and soundness of the roads. We pointed out that the city would have to pick up everybody over the weight limit, not just farmers hauling hay or feed,” Gearhardt said.

The next step was to show council members why it was unreasonable to enforce the weight limit, which had been on the books for years but never enforced. Gearhardt came to Cadiz and with about a dozen Farm Bureau members, they traveled to the farms to determine which streets they currently use and which ones they would have to use if the weight limit was enforced. One of the alternative routes had a bridge that was too low to get a truck through. Not having access to the 1-mile stretch of road near downtown would have added 17 miles to farmers’ routes and affected many other businesses in the area, said Gearhardt, who provided a memorandum to local members that explained why enforcing the weight limit was not a good idea.

Farm Bureau Organization Director Michelle Specht said with support from the state Farm Bureau, the county was able to make headway with council members.

“We’ve got an awesome and very well respected Farm Bureau here. They are very determined and passionate people. Farming is one of the largest industries in the county and it needs to stay intact,” she said.

The entire process took about two weeks and is a good example of the county and state Farm Bureau working together to resolve an issue, Gearhardt said.

“It really illustrates what the county Farm Bureau can do if they come together and become organized,” he said.

 



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