PEORIA — The harvest emergency announced by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday is only the second one ever enacted, but its practical effects will repeat annually without such a declaration, beginning next year.
The emergency status enables the Illinois Department of Transportation to issue free permits to farmers and crop haulers allowing them to surpass gross vehicle and gross axle weight limits during the harvest season. A bill signed into law Aug. 25 will automatically enact the measures each harvest season beginning in 2019.
Rauner declared the first harvest emergency in 2017 and said the declarations and new law will allow Illinois farmers and haulers to compete more effectively with counterparts in neighboring states that also automatically ease the hauling restrictions for those working with agricultural commodities each fall.
"We have heard from Illinois' trucking industry and from farmers who are operating on thin profit margins in today's agricultural climate," Rauner said in prepared remarks. "Today's harvest emergency declaration recognizes that the weight-restriction structure in place in Illinois put our farmers and truckers at a disadvantage."
He added: "They cannot and should not be forced to wait until the 2019 harvest season to reap the economic benefits of eased weight limits. Now they won't have to as they take their crops to market, processing or storage."
The permits will be issued free of charge, but applicants must obtain a route-authorization number every two weeks. The harvest emergency permit and other information on the permitting process can be obtained through IDOT's automated permitting web application at webapps.dot.illinois.gov/ITAP.
Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. said the declaration will allow farmers to operate more efficiently at a time of financial strain and uncertainty in the marketplace.
“This consideration is especially helpful as 2018 has been a difficult year for Illinois farmers," Guebert said in a release. "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."
The permit process opens Monday and continues through the end of the year.
Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JournoBuedel.