MMA Legislative Accomplishment: The Harvest Permit Program

April 12th, 2018

MMA Legislative Accomplishment: The Harvest Permit Program

During the 2018 legislative session, one of the biggest accomplishments for the Mississippi Manufacturers Association was the passage of SB 2418, which made improvements to the Harvest Permit program that is used to assist in the harvest of valuable agricultural commodities.  The Harvest Permit program was established in the early 90’s to allow the forestry industry to harvest timber and transport that timber from the field to a mill for processing.  The current weight limit for trucks in Mississippi is 80,000 lbs., but the harvest permit allows for a 5% variance (or an additional 4,000 lbs.) making the Max Gross Vehicle Weight 84,000 lbs.  The intent of the harvest permit is to give loggers some leeway with the weight restrictions on their loads since they are unable to weigh their trucks in the field.

Since the inception of the harvest permit, permit holders have been allowed to carry their products from the field to a holding facility and then later move those products to the actual processing facility, all counting as one trip. Following an Attorney General’s opinion, MDOT changed their enforcement to reflect a new interpretation of the law. Under this new interpretation, trucks were no longer allowed to transport from the holding facility to the processing plant under the harvest permit. Without the 5% variance, loggers were forced to be redistribute their loads across more trucks, thus increasing costs and decreasing productivity. SB 2418 returns the harvest permit program to the original intent and allows loggers to make the full trip from point of harvest to point of processing under the harvest permit.

“It was disappointing in 2015 when the Harvest Permit received a new interpretation. Essentially it meant we’d have to place more trucks on the road to move the same amount of product – that impacted our competitiveness. My hat’s off to the MMA team and sticking with it to gain passage of this bill”.

— Stan Webb, Weyerhaeuser Company

In addition, SB 2418 also increases the axle tolerance from 5% to 10%. This change takes into consideration the timber weight differential of timber as one end of a tree is generally heavier than the other. With the increased tolerance, loggers will be able to load their timber in the most efficient manner possible. It is important to note that while the tolerance for each axle is increased by 10%, the overall weight cap for a harvest permit has not changed. The max gross vehicle weight will remain at 84,000 lbs. under a harvest permit.

“We have hauled under harvest permits since we started our trucking company in 1989. Our lumber company is a small, one shift operation and if we had lost the ability to haul under the Harvest Permit program, we would have had to put an additional 1,500 trucks on the road per month. This would be an extreme cost to the lumber company. Just think about what it would require for our larger wood product businesses that operate 7 days a week 24 hours per day. Our legislators and Governor Bryant averted a potential disaster by signing this into law. Our, already stressed, Mississippi road system would have been required to handle thousands of more trucks per month.”

— Charlie Thomas, Shuqualak Lumber Company

The forest products industry estimated that without the passage of SB 2418, they would have added 15,000 log trucks annually to Mississippi roads, with an additional 4,000 trucks for corn and soybeans. The passage of this bill has removed a costly burden from one of Mississippi’s most prominent industries and freed up travel on our roads. The Mississippi Manufacturers Association worked tirelessly with a coalition of interested parties, including the Mississippi Forestry Association, to educate the legislature on the importance of this issue. Passage of this legislation was a top priority and we commend the legislature and Governor Bryant for ensuring it became law.

Gov. Bryant signed the Harvest Permit Program bill into law on April 11, 2018. It will go into effect July 1, 2018.