Iowa Farmers Among Winners in $2.94 Million Grants
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Farmers that need financial help to offset costs from stricter federal driver’s education requirements are the big winners in $2.94 million in grants by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to bolster 46 commercial driver license training programs.
Iowa is helping some 1,600 people obtain their CDLs (with skills or knowledge tests) for driving trucks and school buses through in-house training or with third-party providers. The funding is being administered through the state Workforce Development office (IWD).
IWD spokesperson Jesse Dougherty told Transport Topics that interest in receiving the CDL training funds was intense, and feedback has been positive.
“Some of the businesses are using the funds to upskill current employees so that they can take on more responsibilities, some have built partnerships with local [entry-level driver training] providers to train new hires, and others are excited to have the opportunity to build and support their own training program,” Dougherty said.
The state has a high percentage of residents employed in farming who traditionally learn at home about and gain experience driving trucks. In the past, new applicants could receive a CDL at a lower cost and faster than today since they already had experience driving trucks on farms until last year’s more stringent federal ELDT mandates took effect.
Of the 46 grants, the state awarded 31 to trucking-related interests including the city of Des Moines, Maquoketa Valley Rural Electric Cooperative, MidAmerican Energy Co., Pottawattamie County, seven construction-related companies and nine businesses involved in agriculture/farming.
Awarded $11,000, 21st Century Cooperative in Cumberland will train eight current drivers and hire/train two new ones. The business relies heavily on transporting agricultural products from seven locations in southwest Iowa including five grain co-ops, two feed production facilities, one chemical mixing plant, two fertilizer plants and three propane storage facilities.
A 90-year-old cooperative, Agriland FS Inc. of Winterset, will provide in-house training to 137 people with a $327,144 grant. The company works in agronomy, energy, feed, grain, structures and turf.
Heartland Co-op in West Des Moines, Iowa, has been in operation for more than a century. Heartland Co-op via Facebook)
Based in West Des Moines, Heartland Co-op provides critical infrastructure services to more than 6,000 farmer members. It plans to use its $179,000 grant to upgrade 120 employees to acquire a Class A CDL over the next 18 months. The cooperative has been operating for more than a century.
Iowa is the second-highest agricultural producing state after California, according to the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farming takes up 85% of Iowa’s 55,857 square miles of land.
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River Valley Cooperative of Eldridge will spend its $125,000 grant to provide 50 people with ELDT training. The organization reported to the state it has experienced more difficulty hiring CDL drivers to haul grain, fertilizers, manufactured livestock feed, propane and diesel fuel to the farmers and home heat customers across eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.
“Iowa has a severe need for CDL-qualified drivers but was looking at an uphill battle to close that gap in light of increased ELDT standards. The grants address both the immediate and longer-term needs by increasing the number of individuals achieving their CDL, reducing the overall cost of training per student and making training more readily available by increasing the number of certified ELDT providers in the state,” Dougherty said.
Five employees at Jochum Agri-Service Inc. in Salix will be certified (using a $12,500 grant) as CDL holders through a third-party trainer to enable the small agriculture business (which works for large dairy and hog confinements in six counties) to have teamwork tasks more evenly distributed.
This latest CDL grant from Reynolds was announced March 30.
“This unique program addresses Iowa’s need for truck drivers in our workforce,” she said at that time. “Iowa is leading the nation by investing in the required training and removing barriers to these high-demand positions. The pathway to a CDL must be accessible to keep Iowa’s and the nation’s economy moving forward.”
This effort follows her earlier efforts to get truck drivers on the road. She enacted a law March 22 to broaden authorized parties so more third-party testers could administer CDL knowledge and driving skills tests. In December, she announced a $6 million ELDT program to remove financial obstacles to training that were impacting, in particular, farming youths faced with higher training costs due to federal mandates.
The new $2.94 million in grants take the form of employer reimbursements and are distributed after drivers have achieved the necessary CDL or endorsement, such as for hazmat.
Three Rivers FS, a locally owned agricultural cooperative in Dyersville, was awarded $24,000 to train 15 new and seasonal employees at a third-party CLD provider. Three Rivers FS is a crop nutrient, propane and refined-fuel supplier in northeast Iowa.
“We have had some funds requested already, but we are not at the end of the first reporting period,” Dougherty said. “Adding more drivers to the pipeline means both freight and the Iowans who rely on transportation will see more predictability, thereby causing less personal and economic stress for parents and consumers, and ultimately creating a healthier economy in Iowa overall.”
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