The U.S. Department of Transportation  (DOT) has beaten a hasty retreat from its idea that a farmer driving a tractor on the public road ought to be required to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

After getting 1,700 comments from the public, most of them telling the agency to forget it, DOT issued a news release announcing that it had no intention of issuing new rules on agricultural transportation.

“We have no intention of instituting onerous regulations on the hardworking farmers who feed our country and fuel our economy,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. He noted that state and local authorities already handle the fact that farmers frequently have to drive farm implements on public roads.

“We want to make it absolutely clear that farmers will not be subjected to new and impractical safety regulations,” said U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari. “The farm community can be confident that states will continue to follow the regulatory exemptions for farmers that have always worked so well.”

DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) launched an inquiry into agricultural matters some months ago and, among other things, said farmers might need to get CDL’s before wheeling the John Deere onto the county road.  Farm groups protested and many farmers made their views known, resulting in this week’s about-face.

“It was refreshing to see that our federal authorities heard the concerns we expressed,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said. “It lifts a big cloud of uncertainty in farm country and the action is greatly appreciated.”