Tennessee's governor has signed an executive order, allowing farmers to haul larger loads of hay, as they try to feed their livestock during the drought.
"What started out as a very promising year has quickly turned devastating for many farmers, who are facing a short supply of hay due to the drought," Gov. Bill Haslam said. "This order will help ensure that hay can be shipped safely and without delay across the state as needed."
The order allows for an increase in gross vehicle weight to 95,000 pounds, not exceeding 20,000 pounds per axle load, for semi-truck/trailers. The order also increases the height of trailer loads to 13 feet, 6 inches and the width to a maximum of 14 feet during daylight hours. The increase in width allows haulers to transport standard six- to seven-foot round hay bales side by side, increasing the capacity being hauled per truck without a permit.
The order is valid for 60 days and expires on September 8, 2012.
Tennessee is a major producer of hay, which is used to support the state's $1.3 billion livestock industry. In 2011, Tennessee farmers produced an estimated 3.9 million tons of hay valued at more than $332 million. Hay cutting began earlier than normal this year due to the warm spring, but many farmers have reported reduced hay yields in areas where rainfall has been inadequate.
"With hay stocks low and spring cuttings below normal, many farmers are heading into the fall with less than half the hay they'll need for the winter," state Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. "The governor's order will help farmers move hay to where it's needed at a time when they are already feeding hay because of dried up pastures."
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has joined with the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation in making the 2012 Tennessee Hay Directory available to help farmers source locally produced hay. A link to the directory and to the University of Tennessee Extension's Drought and Extreme Heat website for farmers can be found on TDA's website: www.tn.gov/agriculture.