Tag Archives: Agriculture

Produce groups seek 2-year wait on electronic logging

A coalition of industry associations has asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for a two-year exemption on electronic logging device mandate for trucks carrying agricultural commodities.

A current ELD mandate waiver which postponed the measure for trucks carrying produce and other ag products ends March 18.

In a letter submitted Feb. 20, the United Fresh Produce Association, Western Growers, the National Potato Council, the U.S Apple Association and more than 20 other produce groups said a combination of factors have driven up transportation costs.

“With the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, driver shortages, and other issues, there have been considerable increases in transportation costs for fresh produce causing devastating effects on our industry,” the letter said. “We are hearing from many of our members across multiple commodities and sectors throughout the country that shippers are having to pay two or three times, occasionally more, the normal rate for transporting their product.”

ELD concerns

The letter said feedback from producers and trucking operations indicates many ELDs on the market are not able to accommodate the agricultural exemption that is provided under the hours-of-service regulations. Under the agricultural exemption, hours-of-service regulations do not apply to the transportation of agricultural commodities operating within a 150-air mile radius of a pick-up.

“We believe that this extension would provide a reasonable period of time for FMCSA to work with the technology providers in developing a program to verify that the ELDs on the market can perform the tasks that the rule mandates and allow trucks hauling agricultural commodities to fully utilize the 150-mile exemption,” according to the letter.

The coalition is asking the agency to consider hours-of-service modifications to accommodate the realities of loading and unloading fresh produce.

“The unpredictability of loading and unloading times as it relates to fresh fruits and vegetables can significantly detract from the on-duty hours drivers are allowed in a day,” according to the letter, which notes that two-to four-hour delays at loading are not uncommon.

“We encourage FMCSA to consider flexibility under either the ELD rule or the hours-of-service rule for truck drivers who are idling, waiting or traveling small distances reflective of negotiating a congested terminal to be considered in an exempt status,” according to the letter. “We do not believe that this type of activity is as demanding as over-the-road driving and therefore should not contribute to maximum driving times.”

The letter also asks the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to:

  • Allow packing facilities, cold storages and other locations to be considered as a “source” location under the hours-of-service regulation.
  • Allow the agricultural exemption’s 150-air-mile radius to begin at the final pick up point for multi-point pickups. Drivers make multiple pick-ups from small packinghouses or cold storage facilities to fill their load before continuing to final destinations. “We would encourage the 150 air-mile radius to begin at the location of the last pick-up point so as not to disrupt current supply chains and accommodate the operational efficiencies organically created by the marketplace over the last 100-plus years,” according to the letter.
  •  Clearly define that empty trucks are covered under the agricultural exemption. According to the letter, agricultural exemptions should be clearly defined to include unladen trucks as eligible if they are traveling to a facility exclusively to pick up an order.

Story by Tom Karst @thepacker

Citrus greening threatening your trees? Florida will send you tiny wasps

Homeowners with citrus trees in their yards can apply online to have a vial of tiny parasitic wasps mailed to them, that can then be released onto citrus trees.

To defend the state’s citrus crop from an industry-crippling infection, scientists with the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services are fighting pest with parasites.

Florida residents can apply online to the department for tiny parasitic wasps called tamarixia that hunt the Asian citrus psyllid, an invasive insect that spreads the fatal disease “citrus greening.”

The psyllid carries the infection, which plugs the plant’s phloem, starves the tree and causes fruit to drop prematurely. Tamarixia feed on the pest and lay eggs inside young psyllids, killing them and, hopefully, the bacteria that cause the disease, said biological scientist Gloria Lotz.

At a mass-rearing lab in Gainesville, one of a few throughout the state, Lotz and fellow researchers supply over 1 million tamarixia every year to commercial citrus growers and now, Florida residents who want to protect their backyard citrus trees.

The tamarixia release program is one of several tools researchers and growers use to slow greening’s spread, including pesticides to kill the disease-causing bacteria and hydroponic systems to keep infected plants healthy.

But there’s no single solution to a complex problem like citrus greening. It’s infected nearly 100 percent of the state’s mature citrus trees, said Steve Futch, a citrus agent at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

Biocontrol methods usually operate as a “series of waves,” he said; when there are fewer pests, the parasite that hunts them starts to decline, too.

The chances of eradicating the psyllid and the infection with tamarixia are slim, he said — but it should work well in smaller, urban environments, where wasps can fly between citrus trees on different properties.

The citrus industry employs nearly 76,000 growers, truckers, pickers, and packers who face job loss if crop production continues to decline. But Futch said despite the bleak prognosis, Florida’s staple crop will survive—though it may be a bit smaller.

“There will always be a citrus industry in Florida,” he said. “It will be different in the future than it is today and in the past.”

Citrus tree owners can apply here to have a small vial of the tiny wasps sent to their home: http://bit.ly/2vfcI5V

Story By Scottie Andrew, GateHouse Media Services