The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

June 15, 2014

Law a bit muddy on dirtying the roads

Q: As spring planting begins, are farmers required to remove the large amounts of mud their equipment leaves on public and private roads?

A: When Rebecca Arndt of the Minnesota Department of Transportation said she dig up an answer, Ask Us Guy was curious what she would find. Earlier in his career, Ask Us Guy covered the Minnesota Legislature and noticed that when regulations were proposed that might complicate the lives of farmers, lawmakers from agricultural districts were very effective at blocking the new rules or at least adding an exception for farmers.

And as it turns out, farmers are not specifically required to remove mud from the tires of tractors or other farm equipment when moving from fields to public roads.

Arndt got Bruce Gordon of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to do some research, and Gordon found nothing in state law about mud. Pretty much everything else, but not mud.

One statute makes it a misdemeanor to “throw, deposit, place, or dump, or cause to be thrown, deposited, placed, or dumped upon any street or highway or upon any public or privately owned land adjacent thereto without the owner’s consent any snow, ice, glass bottle, glass, nails, tacks, wire, cans, garbage, swill, papers, ashes, cigarette filters, debris from fireworks, refuse, carcass of any dead animal, offal, trash or rubbish ... .”

The law concludes with a generic clause that may affect farmers who leave lots and lots of mud or really big chunks of soil on the road. That clause makes it illegal to deposit “any other substance likely to injure any person, animal, or vehicle upon any such street or highway.”

Because the substance must be “likely to injure,” it would probably require more than a little mud to convict a farmer. Along with the standard misdemeanor penalties, the law allows judges to punish violators of that section by ordering them “to pick up litter along any public highway or road for four to eight hours under the direction of the Department of Transportation ... .”

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