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Watch for farmers on the roads
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Interesting. Frustrating. Annoying. Aggravating. Irritating.

No, these words are not describing me. They are describing the feelings of the farmers trying to get crop out of the fields. It describes the feelings of dairy farmers trying to keep cattle clean for high-quality white Wisconsin gold. It describes the feelings of drivers dealing with tractors and machinery on our roadways. It describes the feelings of ethanol plants and grain elevators needing and looking for corn and beans. But the ones I really want to focus on are the fine folks trying to get crops out of the fields, and the fine drivers who sometimes feel inconvenienced by them.

This fall, rainy season has posed new challenges for local farmers. Not only is it tough to get in the field, once they get in it is hard to get back out of it. On top of all the harvesting challenges, many producers are finding the quality of their crop diminishing. This means lower yields, more LP to dry it down, and less money for them to pay their bills.

They have a family they are concerned about and they want to get home to see them just as much as anyone else. The last thing they need is to be passed by someone who gives them the old one-finger salute as they cut them off. Farmers don't try to make you late for work, or church, or your Friday night date night. When this weather finally does break, those of us who drive are going to be seeing a lot of machinery and trucks on the roads, and they are going to be putting in some very long hours, and I would like for all of us to help them out.

Usually, farmers try and leave the semis at the edge of the field and fill them with their grain carts. This year, I think we are going to be seeing more roadside filling, since semis don't really like pulling out of muddy lanes. This still poses a bit of an issue this year, since the shoulders are a bit soft. As you are traveling the back roads of Wisconsin and Illinois this year, be extra cautious. Look for trucks parked along the road, and slow down when cresting a hill, especially on narrow town roads. Modern farm equipment is much larger and many times takes up more than one lane of traffic. Pass them safely.

To give you an example, I took a John Deere 9530 tractor down County Rd N with duals. This tractor, as I hugged the side of the road, still was almost to the yellow center line. I could not believe the number of people who tried to pass this machine. Most vehicles aren't as big as the tires, and yet they still tried to pass. Tractor operators are not required to drive on the shoulder and, quite frankly, with the way some of these shoulders are I wouldn't want to.

The other thing I want to make people aware of is the way machinery signal lighting works. It's a bit different than a normal vehicle. Most machinery has turn signals and red warning lights. However, most do not have brake lights. Also, when you approach these tractors you will see two amber colored lights flashing. These also are the turn signals. However, when an operator goes to turn, the side opposite of the direction he is turning will come on solid, while the other side flashes. Do not expect the operator to pull off to the side of the road before they turn. Also, passing a tractor and implement in a no-passing zone is illegal and just downright dangerous. Even if the operator is all the way over to the side of the road and he motions you past, it is illegal. I am amazed the number of times I get passed on County J, by our farm, while I am going up one of the worst sections of hill there is. Are you really in that big of a rush?

And while there is lighting on equipment, there still are many implements and wagons that do not have turn signals. Motorists should be cautious if the implement ahead of them slows down. They always should look for a driveway on the left side of the road before attempting to pass to make sure the tractor will not make a left-hand turn while they are passing. This is one of the biggest causes of accidents, as drivers often assume the implement is slowing to let them pass when they actually are slowing to turn left.

Lastly, I think mud in the roadways is going to be a concern this year. I have seen quite a few farmers washing and scraping off the roads. Be cautious as you approach this and slow down. I know this irritates quite a few folks, but it is virtually unavoidable at times. And I know there are going to be numerous people complaining about farmers on the road, and I also know the farmers have a responsibility to operate their machinery in a safe manner. But I think, no, I know, that if we all give them some room and respect, we can make this a safe harvest season. And, as always, when you do see the farmers on the road, when you pass them, give them the five-finger wave. Let them know you appreciate all they do, and let them do it safely. Here is wishing you all a safe and enjoyable harvest and, soon, holiday season. God Bless.

- Jeff Ditzenberger of rural Monticello is president of the Green County Farm Bureau.