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home : community : community Tuesday, November 21, 2017

8/30/2016 3:07:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Farm Truck Rules Change For St. Paul

By Amy Doeun

If you are an urban farmer living in St. Paul, it was illegal for you to park your farm truck in a residential area. All commercial vehicles are banned on residential streets in the city. However according to Pakou Hang of the Hmong American Farmers' Association bus drivers and recreational vehicles had previously been given an exemption. Hang said sections 157 and 155 allowed bus drivers to bring their buses home and park them for up to four hours.

But, "Hmong farmers have been getting a lot of warnings and citations for their farm trucks," said Hang. "Often times the farmers would harvest their crops for market late at night and then drive their trucks home to take to the market early the following morning." They would get tickets and sometimes they would get towed. When they did get towed it could cost them up to $1,000 to get their trucks back.

According to Pakou Hang, there were a number of requests to the Hmong American Farmer's Association seeking help. The organization approached the St. Paul City Council saying, "St. Paul wants to be supportive of small business and agriculture. We need the trucks." They met with Russ Stark, City Council Member. "That happened in October. We also met with people from the city attorney's office and licensing and inspection. They decided to give an exemption for agricultural vehicles from March 1st to November 30th. This has now gone into law. We want to educate people. There will be a $20 fee. You will need to fill out a form and will then be given a placard to put on your dash."

However there is one downside to the new provision. "The original way the law was written each farmer could apply," Hang told Hmong Times. "That means that if a husband and wife both farm they could both apply. Hang added that with many changes to the downtown farmer's market farmers have been losing 20-30% of their sales. It is no longer possible for a farm family to survive on the income generated from one farmers market. "Now they have to go to two markets. So they have to have two trucks. We don't need a restriction on the number of trucks per household."

Hmong Times spoke with Jane Prince, St. Paul City Council Member Ward 7. She said, "In my opinion as someone who voted on the provision I don't think there needs to be limit [on the number of trucks per household]. I think we can wait and see if there are complaints and then limit."

However, the council chose to limit the number of farm trucks per household to one. This was at the leading of council member Dai Thao. According to Hang, Thao said, "That Hmong farmers and urban farmers cannot have special privileges." However Hang added that exemptions are given all the time. Thao and Hang have been corresponding through email as to a solution.

Council Member Prince added that it is her understanding that the council, will consider more [trucks] if there is a need. The discussion could continue as needed.

To sum up Hang said, "It is good that they can apply for one truck. But it also very stifling that they can only apply for one."

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