WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board will vote next week on a resolution to allow the Division of Transportation to issue free permits for overweight trucks carrying agricultural commodities on county highways.
At a Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday, the County Board reviewed its own emergency resolution to provide free permits to drivers hauling grain, produce, livestock, hay and grown animal feed to exceed their maximum weight limits on county highways by up to 10 percent.
The effort to help farmers follows on the heels of spring rains that delayed planting and fall rains that delayed harvest in McHenry County fields. Statewide, harvest is 11 percent behind the five-year average, according to the McHenry County Farm Bureau. As of Sunday, farmers in McHenry County still had 9 percent of soybean crops and 48 percent of corn crops left to harvest.
“Agriculture is the backbone of McHenry County’s economy, and it’s been a tough year for farmers in McHenry County and the rest of Illinois,” McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks said. “We’re going to do whatever we can to help our farmers get their goods to market during this very challenging time.”
The resolution also mirrors Gov. Bruce Rauner’s emergency declaration allowing trucks carrying agricultural commodities to exceed their maximum weight limit by up to 10 percent on state roads. State law allows local governments to waive permit requirements on their own roads during such harvest emergencies.
The maximum weight allowed on county roads is 80,000 pounds. The resolution would allow carriers to haul an additional 8,000 pounds. Even with a free permit to exceed load limits, the law requires carriers to abide by posted bridge and highway limits.
Agriculture officials asked for the County Board’s support to help farmers fight through a season delayed and stricken by bad weather.
“As harvest drags on, field losses, both yield and quality, continue to add up,” said Dan Volkers, director of the McHenry County Farm Bureau.
Weather affected harvest in McHenry County harder than most, Volkers said.
“If you drive the northeast section of the state of Illinois, you’ll also note that McHenry County is even further behind than most of the northeast section,” Volkers said. “I hate to call us the armpit of the state, but we’re definitely in a rough spot as far as harvest goes.”
Volkers asked that the county waive the permit process to save farmers time.
“Permits take time, and the farmers’ times are valuable, especially this time of year,” Volkers said. “If it is possible to waive that process, that would definitely be more beneficial to the farmers. On their behalf, I ask for your support.”
Michele Aavang, a County Board member and a director on the Illinois Farm Bureau Board, said a positive vote on the resolution would help farmers, truckers and all businesses that depend on agriculture.
“Mother Nature has challenged local farmers with less than ideal planting and growing conditions,” Aavang said in a statement. “This action will allow farmers to more efficiently transport their crops, helping to offset the uncomfortable effects of weather and commodity markets.”
The county resolution would expire Dec. 20, the same day Rauner’s declaration expires.
The resolution will be voted on at the next McHenry County Board meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Administration Building, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock.