MADISON, Wisc.—Sugarmakers in Wisconsin have been banned from hauling sap by local town and county restrictions.
Some townships and counties have put their law enforcement on high alert during sap season to enforce road bans and weight limits during the spring break up, which makes it nearly impossible for those that need to move sap to do so legally.
The Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association (WMSPA) has been working with the Wisconsin state legislature to get the department of transportation to recognize maple sap as an agricultural product.
There is a long way to go and a lot of minds need to be educated that maple sap is perishable ag product, no different than the dairy industry moving milk.
Legislative Bill 262 is currently being considered by the legislature in Madison.
This bill creates special highway weight limits for certain vehicles transporting maple sap or syrup.
Under current law, in general, no person may operate on a highway any vehicle or combination of vehicles that exceeds certain statutory weight limits unless that person obtains a permit issued by the department of transportation or a local highway authority.
Among the weight limitations are, generally, limitations on the gross weight imposed on the highway by the wheels of any one axle or by consecutive axles of the vehicle.
In general, the maximum weight that may be imposed on the highway by one axle is 20,000 pounds and the maximum weight that may be imposed on the highway by two axles that are eight or fewer feet apart is 35,000 pounds.
Currently, special higher weight limits are provided for certain vehicles transporting milk or other dairy supplies and products (dairy vehicles).
Specifically, for dairy vehicles, the maximum weight that may be imposed on the highway by one axle is 21,000 pounds and the maximum weight that may be imposed on the highway by two axles that are eight or fewer feet apart is 37,000 pounds.
Also, for groups of three or more consecutive axles more than nine feet apart on a dairy vehicle, the axles may impose on the highway a weight of 2,000 pounds more than is allowed under general rules.
The total weight of the dairy vehicle, however, may not exceed 80,000 pounds. (Section of Bill 262)
WMSPA has also contacted our Wisconsin D.O.T. on the issue.
Our response back was based on the definition of according to Implements of Husbandry (I.O.H law) which was revised in 2014 from the pre-existing Wisconsin Statue 93.50 (1)d and this new definition of husbandry no longer includes sap as an agricultural product.
This updated definition was taken from the Internal Revenue Definition of farming.
From Wisconsin Statues, Internal Revenue Code – Title 26 Section 464, Definitions for purposes of this section (e) (1).
Farming - “The term ‘farming’ means the cultivation of land or the raising or harvesting of any agricultural or horticultural commodity including the raising, shearing, feeding, caring for, training, and management of animals.
For purposes of the preceding sentence, trees (other than trees bearing fruit or nuts) shall not be treated as an agricultural or horticultural commodity.
Maple Sap/Maple syrup is considered in WI, agricultural, when it comes to the FSA programs CFAP2, NASS Stats, AG taxes on land, and tax exemption in Ag business.
WMSPA has reached out to the IMSI and NAMSC on the issue and are looking at different avenues to work toward updating the husbandry definition.
WMSPA has recently had contacted our new State Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary Romanski who is working with the WMSPA on the issue as well.
Each state treats maple sap differently, but we hope that this work will benefit the entire maple world and make future requests for sap hauling easier.
WMSPA realizes that adding maple syrup to the maple sap legislation may be hurting the passage of the current bill.
In 2016, the WMSPA was approached by lawmakers to work at a legislative level to have the transportation of sap be treated as an ag product and follow the same guidelines as a milk truck when hauling.
WMSPA also reached out to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau at the county level in Brown County to support the bill in their policy development.
This gained support at a county level and from there the policy went to the Farm Bureau at a state level. Farm Bureau approved the policy and continues to back the bill.
WMSPA also contacted our senators and representatives and continues to do so each year.
In October 2017 the bill went before the state legislature and was defeated in March 2018.
In April 2019 the legislative bill was reintroduced. A public hearing was held in May 2019. Members from the WMSPA and maple equipment dealers traveled to Madison and spoke before the legislators in support of the sap legislation.
Letters of support from WMSPA members who were unable to attend were also read at the hearing. The Committee on Agriculture voted 9 yes and 5 no.
From there the Senate defeated it once again.
WMSPA has had the legislative bill presented to the legislature twice and has been voted against each time.
So in future rounds if the bill doesn’t get passed into legislation, we will only refer to the harvesting of maple sap as being an ag product and we will leave out maple syrup.