Ag Policy Blog
Biden Administration Extends Trucking Waiver
The Biden administration has extended a waiver for commercial truckers from the federal Hours of Service regulation through Feb. 28, 2022, the National Pork Producers Council said in a news release on Monday.
The waiver was scheduled to expire Tuesday.
The HOS rule limits truckers to 11 hours of driving time and 14 consecutive hours of on-duty time in any 24-hour period and requires prescribed rest periods, NPPC noted.
"At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and prompted by NPPC's efforts to ensure pork producers could continue transporting hogs, the FMCSA [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration] included livestock haulers in an initial emergency declaration that provided an exemption from the HOS regulation for commercial truckers hauling essential supplies, including livestock," NPPC explained.
"The waiver subsequently was expanded to cover the delivery of livestock feed."
"We're pleased the FMCSA recognized the challenges COVID still presents and the problems it has created, including supply chain issues, for the livestock industry and acted accordingly," said NPPC President Jen Sorenson.
"Extending the HOS waiver ensures that livestock truckers can get hogs to market safely and efficiently. Likewise, truckers hauling livestock feed can get those essential supplies to farms."
USDA Vaccination Rate Lowest as Biden Delays Discipline
Only 86% of Agriculture Department employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the lowest of any major federal agency, but President Biden announced today that federal employees who have not gotten the vaccine will not be disciplined until early 2022.
The White House Office of Management and Budget said on Wednesday that, as of last Monday, the date by which federal employees were supposed to be vaccinated, 86.1% of USDA employees had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination, but that 95.6% of USDA employees had gotten at least one dose of a vaccination or a pending or approved exception or extension, which is about the average for the whole government.
Asked by DTN for a breakdown of the vaccination rates within USDA divisions, Michael Amato, the communications director, replied, "The data released on vaccination and compliance rates among federal employees makes clear that vaccination requirements work. They play a crucial role in ensuring a safer, more productive, more efficient workforce."
"As of today, USDA has achieved an 95.6% compliance rate -- meaning employees who are vaccinated with at least one dose or who have a pending or approved exception or extension request -- and a 86.1% vaccination rate -- meaning employees who are vaccinated with at least one dose -- across our workforce," Amato said.
"Implementation of the requirement will not result in any disruptions to critical services that the American people depend on. As we continue to see more and more of our employees provide their vaccination information -- and as we continue an education and counseling process for the small percentage of employees who have not yet complied -- we anticipate that even more of our employees will get vaccinated in the days and weeks ahead."
Today The Washington Post reported that "federal employees who have not complied with the coronavirus vaccine mandate will not face aggressive discipline, including unpaid suspensions or firing, until at least early next year, according to guidance the White House sent to unions."
Agencies will pursue only 'education and counseling efforts through this holiday season as the first step in an enforcement process' and take no further actions beyond a possible letter of reprimand "for most employees who have not yet complied with the vaccination requirement until the new calendar year begins in January," according to the White House message to agencies, the Post reported.
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport
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