Livestock hauling continues on Highway 101

August 27, 2003

By Vickie Horner, Freelance Writer

Capital Press agriculture weekly

Salem, Oregon

To submit a Letter to the Editor:

Legal roadblocks cleared by recent legislation allows livestock trucks continued use of Highway 101 on California's North Coast.

Senate Bill 127, signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis Aug. 3, allows 70-foot livestock semi-trucks continued use of Highway 101 from Leggett, Calif., north to the Oregon border.

Sen. Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, introduced the bill that was sponsored by the Sacramento-based California Cattlemen's Association. The bill extends the sunset date of the original 1999 legislation to 2007 and allows the trucks on specific sections of the highway.

The 70-foot trucks are the standardized method of hauling cattle along the stretch of highway, the only major highway that provides access to Humboldt, Del Norte and Mendocino counties.

Without the exemption livestock producers would have to use a different length truck that would create a limited means of marketing cattle and would add $600 to each load of livestock, said Lane Russ, president of the Humboldt/Del Norte Cattlemen's Association.

"It's an absolute necessity for us, because if we weren't able to allow those trucks to come in we'd be at a real disadvantage with the rest of the country," said Russ, a Humboldt County cattle rancher in the Ferndale, Bear River area.

If livestock buyers with feed lots in the Midwest and Northwest have to pay more freight to get cattle out of the North Coast area, then they won't buy cattle from area ranchers, said Lee Mora, Humboldt Auction Yard manager and Fortuna-area rancher.

"I can't express how pleased we are with Mr. Chesbro," said Mora. Chesbro "stepped up to the plate" and recognized the importance of the cattle industry on the North Coast, he said. As a CCA member, Mora worked to get the legislation through the Senate.

Livestock is a traditional and vital part of agriculture industries on the North Coast, said Chesbro.

"With less and less resource-based industry we must make a greater effort to keep the cattle industry viable," he said.

The safety exemption covers nearly 30 miles of the road through the three counties.

No accidents were reported involving the semi-trucks since the original legislation was approved. The bill includes a study on the impacts of the program by the California Highway Patrol to be completed by 2006.

The CCA is the trade organization for California's cattle ranchers founded in 1917. It represents the state's $1.64 billion beef cattle industry on legislative and regulatory issues.