A bill to let milk haulers use interstate highways during winter storm emergencies has passed its first test in the Pennsylvania House.

Rep. Martin Causer’s bill passed the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee on Wednesday by an 18-6 vote.

Causer, a Republican and the committee chairman, introduced the bill after farmers and haulers complained about travel restrictions that slowed the delivery of their perishable product during five snowstorms this winter.

“You either ship the milk or you dump the milk down the drain. There aren’t any other options,” Causer said.

Pennsylvania’s three-tiered ban is designed to reduce emergency response times and prevent massive jams that strand motorists in the cold.

But in a hearing last week, milk haulers said their trucks and drivers are specially equipped for driving in tough conditions, and that secondary roads are not necessarily safer for big trucks.

Democratic Chairman Eddie Day Pashinski voted against the bill, saying he wanted to give state agencies more time to improve their system.

Rep. Mark Keller, R-Landisburg, argued that passing the bill would make sure the agencies prioritize the issue.

“Things in this building move slowly, and winter will return,” Causer agreed.

The bill was amended to require milk truckers who want to be exempt from the travel restrictions to obtain a decal from the state Milk Marketing Board.

The legislation now moves to the full House.

Lancaster Farming

Phil Gruber is the news editor at Lancaster Farming. He can be reached at (717) 721-4427 or pgruber.eph@lnpnews.com. Follow him @PhilLancFarming on Twitter.