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Teaching Burger King about sustainability | The Spokesman Speaks Podcast, Episode 51

The Farm Babe's farm tour with Burger King Executives
Michelle Miller (known to her social media followers as "The Farm Babe") invited Burger King executives out to her farm, after Burger King ran an ad mischaracterizing the environmental impact of cattle. Michelle (pictured above, center of photo with black shirt and sunglasses, during the tour) joins us for this episode of The Spokesman Speaks podcast.

 

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Welcome to Episode 51 of The Spokesman Speaks podcast. In this episode, Iowa DOT officer Sergeant Kevin Killpack talks about DOT’s rules and exceptions for farmers during the 2020 harvest. And Iowa farm celebrity Michelle Miller (known to her social media followers as “The Farm Babe”) shares how she welcomed Burger King executives to learn the truth about the sustainability of agriculture (after Burger King ran an ad mischaracterizing the environmental impact of cattle).

Below are resources referred to in this episode:

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Narrator: Since 1934 Iowa's farmers have turned to the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman as their trusted news source. Now the Spokesman Speaks. Listen in and hear from leading experts on topics important to farmers and agriculture. Now here's your host.

Andrew Wheeler: Welcome to the September 7th edition of the Spokesman Speaks podcast. I'm Andrew Wheeler and in today's episode, you're going to learn about Iowa DOT's rules and exceptions for farmers this harvest season. And you'll hear from an Eastern Iowa farm celebrity who welcomed Burger King executives onto her farm to learn the truth about the sustainability of agriculture after Burger King ran an ad mischaracterizing the environmental impact of cattle. I'm guessing that a few of you are filling up a truckload of grain as you're listening to this episode. So let's start with Iowa, DOT officer Sergeant Kevin Killpack, who recently called in to discuss DOT's rules and exceptions for farmers with Spokesman reporter Corey Munson.

New Speaker: This year, starting July 1st. We had some rule changes regarding the use and who can be operating a farm vehicle. So can you explain to us what exactly in the state of Iowa is considered a farm vehicle?

Kevin Killpack: I sure can. Yeah. What we're going to do is we're going to kind of talk about the federal code and in the state of Iowa, we've adopted the federal code and under that federal code there's definitions for different types of items. The item that we're talking about today has to do with what is a covered farm vehicle. And that definition is actually found in three 90.5 of the federal code. And it defines what a covered farm vehicle is. And there's some criteria that has to be met. And first it identifies what type of vehicle that can be and a covered farm vehicle can be either a straight truck or an articulated truck like a truck tractor semi-trailer one of the other criteria that they have to meet to be a covered farm vehicle is it has to be registered in a state with a license plate or other designation issued by the state of Iowa that the registration that will allow law enforcement to understand and identify that this is a commercial motor vehicle or a covered farm vehicle. Iowa allows this designation to be done by having the word special indicated on the side of the plate, it could have a farm sticker, or you can get from either the County treasurer's office, or Iowa DOT. You can get a covered farm vehicle designation letter. And that's how we as law enforcement would be able to identify that we're dealing with a covered farm vehicle. Some of the other criteria that have to be met is the operators of that vehicle have to be the owner or operator of a farm or ranch or an employee or a family of an owner or operator of the farm and ranch. This vehicle can be used to transport agricultural commodities, livestock, machinery, or supplies to and from the farm or ranch. One of the caveats to this he has is that you can meet all these criteria, but in order to keep that definition and maintain the benefits of it, the vehicle cannot be used in a, for hire operation, such as you can't go to the coop and haul for hire or get paid so much per bushel to haul someone else's grain and be compensated for it. What it doesn't do is it doesn't prohibit a farmer entering into a crop sharing agreement with their landlord. You can still haul your landlord's grain as long as it's part of a crop sharing agreement. The other caveat is, is that you can't haul amount of hazardous materials that would require placarding. So once we've established all this, the size of the commercial motor vehicle determines the distance restrictions in which you can travel in this covered farm vehicle. So in the smaller vehicles, let's talk about a vehicle with a gross vehicle, weight or gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or less. They can utilize the exceptions within this covered farm vehicle designation, anywhere in the United States. So that's for the smaller vehicles. If you're in a larger vehicle with a gross vehicle, weight or gross vehicle, weight rating, whichever is greater of more than 26,001 pounds. You can utilize these exceptions anywhere within the state of registration, or if you live in Iowa and you want to cross state lines, you can go up to 150 air miles from your farm or ranch with respect to the vehicle that's being operated.

Corey Munson: So if you meet the criteria for being a covered farm vehicle what benefits does that afford you as the operator?

Kevin Killpack: So in that commercial federal regulation, there's a code section in three 90 point 39, that talks about exceptions for covered farm vehicles. And when we read that, it tells us that if you meet the definition of the size, the usage of the vehicle and the distance limitations you could potentially be accepted from CDL requirements, you would also be accepted from drug and alcohol testing. Another exception afforded to farmers and covered farm vehicles would be the age restriction. And the physical requirements found under 391, typically a commercial motor vehicle operator has to be 21 to operate interstate commerce. So what this does, this exception allows farmers or their family members or their hired helpers to operate this vehicle at the age of 18 and older, but not being held to the 21 year old age restriction. It also accepts you from hours of service. So you wouldn't have to carry a log book as long as you stay within those mileage restrictions. And you wouldn't have to keep track of any of your time records. The last thing that you'd be accepted from would have to be inspection, repair and maintenance, which is found under three 96, which means that the farmers or the farmers of vehicles don't have to have an annual vehicle safety inspection.

Corey Munson: So now we defined what a farm vehicle is depending on the use of that vehicle, who can operate the covered farm vehicle and what licensing is required?

Kevin Killpack: So the code of Iowa has actually changed effective July 1st, and they did some things that were quite beneficial to farmers. And what they've said is that if you are operating a covered farm vehicle, and you're doing it as either the owner operator, the farm or ranch, or an employee or family member of that farm or ranch, they're going to do some exceptions that allow you to not, not only not have to have a class, a CDL, but you may be accepted from a chauffeur's license as well. So let's go over some of the examples of who's accepted under what circumstances and under what distance restrictions. So to start off, let's say you're operating a truck tractor semi-trailer and you have a gross vehicle, weight rating of 26,000 pounds or more. And you have a trailer over 10,000 pounds. You are operating a covered farm vehicle. If you operate that vehicle within a hundred air miles of your farm, and you're 18 years or older, you can do that now on an operator's license. So there's no more going to the treasurer's office and having to get a chauffeur's license for those covered farm vehicles operating within a hundred air miles of the farm. If you chose to operate beyond a hundred air miles, and you stayed within the state borders of Iowa, you would then need the chauffeur's license, but only over a hundred air miles from your farm. So a couple of examples of that would be say, you live in your farms in Keokuk, and you want to go to Sioux City in your covered farm vehicle. And you're obviously staying within the state of Iowa. You would need that show first license, or another example would be as if you wanted to drive from Council Bluffs to Davenport, and you're covered farm vehicle. Again, you would only need the chauffeur's D1 license. Now let's give an example. I live in Western Iowa. I live in Logan and we're pretty close to the Nebraska border and say, my farm is in Logan and I wanted to go to the West and I wanted to go into Nebraska and I exceeded 150 air miles. I would then need a class A CDL. So operating outside of state, exceeding 150 air miles. And that's when the covered farm vehicle would then be required to have a class A CDL. We haven't touched on the smaller vehicles yet, but if you're driving a covered farm vehicle with a gross vehicle, weight rating of 26,001 pounds or less, the federal rules have allowed you to do this with a class C operator's license anywhere in the United States. So that's it, that's a huge benefit for farmers today.

Corey Munson: So what rule changes came into effect here on July 1st?

Kevin Killpack: There were really two significant rule changes that came into effect July 1st, when we talk about the code of Iowa, the first one we've already talked about, meaning that the chauffeur's exception, the other significant rule change for the code of Iowa has to do with hauling hay and the exception from having to have an over dimensional permit. So what the code of Iowa has done is they said that if you're hauling a load of hay, straw, stover, or bagged livestock bedding, you no longer need an over dimensional permit. As long as you did not exceed 12 feet, five inches wide, or you do not exceed 14 feet, six inches high, and you still have to weigh 80,000 pounds or less, and you still have to comply with your axle weights. But as long as you stay within those dimensions, you no longer have to have an oversized permit. So one caveat to this is that projecting loads still requires flags, even though you're accepted from the over dimensional permit. And one other thing that I want to point out is if you're going to hold on over dimensional load after dark, you still need to have lights on the extremities of that load.

Corey Munson: So I know there are some requirements for what a vehicle must carry both in paperwork, as well as safety equipment, when you're traveling within the state, as opposed to across state lines. Can you tell me a little bit about the differences there?

Kevin Killpack: So if you're operating a commercial motor vehicle in the definition of the federal rules of a commercial motor vehicle is exceeding 10,000 pounds operating in interstate commerce, or potentially intrastate commerce, what do you need? So if you're operating a commercial motor vehicle and you're staying within the state, you're going to need registration cards, your insurance card, you're going to need a fire extinguisher and triangles, and you're going to need to have a valid driver's license. And really, it's pretty simple to operate intrastate. It's when you go out of state, when there's more, more requirements that are applicable to you when you operate a commercial motor vehicle interstate. So to answer that question, what do I need when traveling in interstate commerce to start off, you're going to need a USD number and that's applicable to private or for hire motor carriers. It doesn't matter. Both carriers are going to need a US DOT number. You would need a unified carrier registration. You would need fire extinguisher and triangles. If your vehicle is large enough, you would need an international fuel tax agreement. And when I talk about the size, the qualifications are as you have to be registered for more than 13 ton or have more than three or more axles on the power unit. Covered farm vehicles are going to be accepted from the international registration plan. So you can run your covered farm vehicle plates on there. You're going to need a valid driver's license, potentially a CDL. If you go far beyond that, 150 air mile radius, if you exceed 150 or a mile radius, you're going to need a medical card. And if you exceed that same 150 mile air radius from your farm, you're going to need to have some hours of service as well. We've talked about being accepted from annual vehicle inspections. You are, as long as you're within that 150 mile radius, once you exceed that, you're going to need some annual vehicle inspections and the medical card as well. Once you exceed that hundred and 50. So really staying within a 150 air miles a year, farm has some significant benefits, but on the event that you do need to exceed that those are the requirements necessary to meet.

New Speaker: So, it sounds like there's a variety of rules that need to be followed whenever operating one of these covered farm vehicles. Can you tell us where folks can go to find this information from the state, as well as the federal and maybe who they can call if they need more information?

Kevin Killpack: One of my favorite resources that I give to truck drivers and farmers is our motor vehicle enforcement has authored a book called the Iowa truck information guide, and really what this has done. It has condensed many of the rules that are applicable to people operating trucks and commercial motor vehicles and covered farm vehicles within Iowa and interstate commerce. And it's condensed it into an easy to read book that can be downloaded on the internet rather than spell out the actual web address. I think the easiest thing to do to find this would be just to go to your favorite search engine and type in Iowa truck information guide, and you can download it. You can view it online, and it's just a PDF version that condenses these rules. And it has it in a logical thought process, and it is quite easy to read. And if you do have questions that you still have on Hansard, we have another way to contact motor vehicle enforcement.

Kevin Killpack: And the internet address is IowaDOT.gov/MVE/contact-us. And it's a nice, easy way. It brings up a map of the state of Iowa. It's got it broken into six different sections, six different captains areas. And you can click on the area that you live in, and you can send an email to the area, captain and sergeants, and you can put that in email format and we will either contact you back by email, or if it's a more complex question that needs more clarification, who could give you a phone call and we'll sit down and visit, and we'll talk about it until you understand what's needed.

Andrew Wheeler: We appreciate that timely update from the Iowa DOT if you'd like to get your hands on the Iowa truck information guide that Sergeant Killpack referenced or the link to contact the DOT officer in your area. We've included links to both of those resources in the notes for this podcast episode. Okay. Time to completely switch gears from transportation to sustainability. At the beginning of this episode, I mentioned a recent Burger King ad that completely missed the mark on the topic of cattle and sustainability. That ad did not sit well with farmers, including Eastern Iowa farmer and social media influencer, Michelle Miller. Who's known by her social media followers as the Farm Babe. Michelle took action, inviting Burger King executives to tour her farm along with a few other farms and ag locations in the area to see and experience the cycle that makes livestock farm sustainable. Iowa Farm Bureau was honored to lend a hand. And I was even there in person for day two of the tour, but I don't want to give away too much more. Farm Bureau's Zach Bader has the story with the Farm Babe, Michelle Miller.

Zach Bader: I'm happy to be joined by Michelle Miller, also known as the Farm Babe and Michelle thanks for joining us on the Spokesman Speaks podcast. I'm sure that a lot of our listeners are familiar with you, but for those who don't know your story or your background, can you give us a high level overview of just how it is that you became the Farm Babe?

Michelle Miller: Sure. Yeah. So again, my name is Michelle Miller. I am coming from a farm in Northeast Iowa. We raise these cattle and sheep, grow corn soybeans, alfalfa, oats, hay, rye, all sorts of good stuff. And I use social media as a platform to bridge the gap between consumers and farmers. I'm a weekly columnist on AgDaily.com and normally a public speaker which obviously the conference industry has shut down with COVID, but that's normally what I'm doing and just work to be an advocate and a public voice for our industry.

Zach Bader: And how did you get to this point where you've got the platform and brand that you have today?

Michelle Miller: You know, I had just been really fed up with hearing so much misinformation out there about agriculture. I started my page Farm Babe, about five and a half years ago. And it was after I had discovered this food blogger named the Food Babe. And she was spreading so much misinformation and I just kind of got set up with it after I was banned and blocked from her social media platforms. And I said, you know, if the Food Babe is not going to let farmers talk about farming, I'm just going to start the Farm Babe, which was a way to tell the real truthful story about agriculture. And it's just grown exponentially ever since. And yeah, it's just, it's been pretty cool to see it happen about how advocating for agriculture can turn into a full time career in doing what we love, which is farming, but, but sharing that story of farming too.

Zach Bader: Okay. So I think by now most farmers about Burger King's recent commercial on methane and cattle. And I think that bizarre is probably the kindest way that you could describe it. It features kids yodeling about how methane emissions from cattle is a problem and how Burger King is reducing those emissions by feeding lemongrass to cattle. Never mind the fact that cattle actually have a relatively small environmental footprint. And in fact, I've seen a stat that if you get rid of all livestock and poultry in the U S you'd only reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 0.36%. So we're already talking about a small environmental footprint. That's actually getting smaller. So when you first saw the Burger King ad, what was your initial reaction, Michelle?

Michelle Miller: Oh my God. I wanted to, I did throw my phone across the room. I couldn't finish it. I couldn't finish it. I was so mad. And then I went back to it and I and it's like, do you ever send one of those emails or one of those texts where you like write it all off and you're really angry, but then you like, think about it for a second and you delete it all and say like, okay, I feel better since I let it out, but you don't actually hit send, I had a lot of choice words. But after I actually was able to stomach it and watch the whole thing I, yeah, just, I just sent out a few tweets and treated their chief marketing officer, just talking about what a slap in the face it was, you know what I mean, farmers already feel, I think we already in our industry feel very underappreciated and misunderstood. And so yeah, it, that's kind of how it all went down was just to send out a tweet to him. And that's kind of how it all started to get the ball rolling with conversation.

Zach Bader: So how did that tweet result in an invitation to your farm?

Michelle Miller: Well, there are PR people, Burger King's PR people reached out to me and arranged a zoom call with Fernando who's, Fernando Machado. Who's the chief marketing officer of Burger King, and we had a zoom call and I just explained to him, you know, why we found that ad so offensive. And in hindsight, you know, he was kind of like, well, he had never thought of it that way. You know? I mean, I don't think that he genuinely felt that the ad would be offensive. And I don't think they really thought about the people and the farmers behind cattle that were real people who care about the planet. And so that's kind of how it all started. And I said, look, if you want to see the truth of sustainability, I mean, come on out, come on out to the farm and much to my pleasant surprise they did. And so it was great. And I'm thankful, you know, to you guys the Iowa Farm Bureau for being a part of this and helping me kind of put some interviews together. I know you, you did a great job helping with that and getting the proper people out here with a good team to tell the solid story of that. So, yeah, we had a really good diverse group and they filmed the whole thing and they sent over the preliminary video, which has not yet been released to the public. They wanted to run it by me first, so I would approve it and now it's in their legal. So once it goes through all the Burger King legal mumbo jumbo, and it looks like they will be releasing a video to highlight the truth and the real story of sustainability and give farmers a voice. So I'm very, very pleased with how it went.

Zach Bader: So what do you think were some of the moments I was kind of there following along virtually, and as you said, our PR manager was there as well. And it was, it was kind of cool to hear about how they weren't just hearing about sustainability. They were also able to see it and in a sense also experience it. They even had a chance to feed the cattle on your farm. So what were some of the aha moments attached to that experiential side of things that you think maybe open their minds to how farmers are protecting the environment? You know, how technology does result in improved sustainability and things like that?

Michelle Miller: Yeah, absolutely. And I think a lot of it is about building relationships and you know, getting to know each other. And I tried to have a really broad roster of people there, you know, so I think getting to know, you know, my friend Kim Bremmer, who is a ruminant nutritionist, you know, it's 15 years. And she was like a, a dairy cow nutritionist on farms. And she's very knowledgeable in that respect. You know, you had dr. Dan Thompson from Iowa State animal science professor, Bob Powell was the CEO of Bright Mark. I think, you know, for them to see renewable energy can come from, you know, livestock manure, where we are all, I mean, I think farmers were mitigating their environmental footprint and trapping methane before it was cool before they, before they did the video. And so I think that was a big one, you know, where they could kind of see, you know, 90,000 gallons of manure, methane, trapped, and turned into renewable natural gas to power local homes and businesses. I mean, we're literally powering homes with poop from cows. I mean, it's so cool. Right. So I think that was a big one. And then just seeing, you know, how different farmers do things differently, you know, on our farm work, we're pretty a midsize kind of old school farm. But then I showed them, you know, a large scale cattle feed lot. That's just got thousands of head of beef cattle, and a much more technology and a nicer infrastructure. And you know, just a much bigger, broader way of doing things, mixing feed mechanically with their nice hydraulic shoots and, and everything like that, that we don't have on our farm, but plenty of farms do. So, I just wanted to showcase different agriculture of different shapes and sizes that mostly would pertain to Burger Kings kind of scale. You know, like I didn't want to take them to like a five acre hobby farm, right. Because that's probably not where Burger King would source their beef, but things that were attainable and relatable to their business and sustainability, I think was a great conversation.

Zach Bader: You've already kind of alluded to one of these things, but what kind of evidence have you seen that they got the message that it got through to them that they were open to learning and they're applying some of what they're learning to hopefully improve their future approach to sustainability and marketing

Michelle Miller: The videos. I mean, the fact that they filmed it all, and they're doing a video to highlight agriculture, they've also been a guest. I know Fernando was a guest on you know, another What the Farm podcast recently, you know, I think Rob Sharkey can be kind of good at putting people on the hot seat. So there was that, and I think just having other people take wind of the situation and yeah, just continue to, to have those dialogue, you know, I think we had so many great conversations. I think the other thing too is kind of traceability, I think is a, is a trend that we could be seeing, you know, where they're kind of like, I think beef, cattle, farmers, we don't always know where our cattle goes and big corporations like Burger King, don't always know where it comes from, you know? So how can we bridge that traceability and make people feel connected and feel good about the food that they're purchasing? And so yeah, I think there was a lot of really great things that could come of it. And I think this was just the start of, you know, relationship building and see where it goes.

Zach Bader: It sounds like there are lessons here that could be applied beyond this very specific situation, working with Burger King. So as you were going through this experience, what did it maybe teach you or remind you in the moment about the opportunity that we have to work with other food brands and consumers moving forward?

Michelle Miller: You know, just always kind of put yourself in other people's shoes and have empathy, you know there's some skeptics out there when he and I started talking, you know, I think some people didn't want to forgive. And I said, hold on a minute, you know, you have to put yourself in other people's shoes, the people that did the ad, you know, they're in New York City, they're in Miami, they're not exposed to farmers. And so it's just, you have to remember that, you know, just because they put out an ad that we found offensive doesn't necessarily mean that their intentions were bad. You know, why would they want to, if they're in the business of burgers, why would they want to piss off the people that create the burger? So, you know, that would be pretty contradictory. So you know, just remember that it only takes one voice, you know, you can be that voice and you can make a difference. All it took for me was a tweet and together as an industry, you know, if we can remember to just like I mentioned earlier, you know, as upset I was the first time I saw it, you know, just take a deep breath and think about it for a minute and, you know, respond with tact and class and put yourself in their shoes and realize that, you know, we just, we have to be able come to the table and learn from each other and move forward. You know, you're never going to win anybody over by being a jerk. And so, yeah, overall, I think it's been a really successful turnaround thus far.

Andrew Wheeler: I got to hand it to Michelle. We face so much frustration in 2020, that it would have been easy to just throw up our hands and write off Burger King as another food company that just doesn't get it. Instead, Michelle decided to open up her farm and start a dialogue. And we're so glad she chose to involve us in that discussion as well. Well, that just about wraps up this episode of the Spokesman Speaks podcast. But before you go, we'd like to remind you that we released a special podcast episode on August 28th with tips for managing crops damaged by Iowa's Derechos storm. This summer that's episode 50, which was released on August 28th. You can find that episode in your favorite podcast app. And while you're there, be sure to subscribe to the Spokesman Speaks podcast and binge any episodes you've missed. And by subscribing, you'll never miss a future episode, including our next regularly scheduled podcast episode on September 21st until next time, I hope that you have had a safe and successful start to the 2020 harvest. Thanks for reading the spokesman. And thanks for listening to the Spokesman Speaks.

Narrator: Thank you for listening to the Spokesman Speaks, a podcast by Iowa Farm Bureau. Check out more podcasts and articles from the Spokesman at iowafarmbureau.com/Spokesman. You can also find and subscribe to the Spokesman Speaks Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and other popular podcast apps. We appreciate your ratings and reviews and welcome your feedback at podcast@ifbf.org.

About The Spokesman Speaks Podcast

Since 1934,  The Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman has been Iowa’s leading agriculture news source, and today it is the largest circulation ag newspaper in Iowa. While the Spokesman newspaper is available exclusively to Iowa Farm Bureau members, The Spokesman Speaks podcast is available publicly, reaching farmers on-the-go with stories and expert advice that matter. You can  find episodes of the podcast here or subscribe and listen in your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, TuneInRadio, or Radio.com.

We release new podcast episodes every other Monday. Episode 52 will be released on September 21, 2020.



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