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Virginia lawmakers cracking down on ‘Farm Use’ tags

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It’s hard to drive down a rural road without seeing a farmer in a pickup truck sporting “Farm Use” tags. However, Virginia lawmakers and ag advocates say that these tags have been misused by the non-farming public for too long. So starting next year, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles will start regulating them.

Farm Use tags have historically been used by farmers to signify that the vehicle in question falls under certain agricultural guidelines, such as the vehicle weighing less than 7,500 pounds and operating along a highway for no more than 75 miles from one part of the owner’s land to another. It also allows farmers to waive many aspects of Virginia’s vehicle registration process.

But it’s probably of little surprise that lawmakers began to take notice when more and more small SUVs and sedans around Virginia, as well as non-farmer pickups, were using Farm Use placards. The new legislation — which will go into effect July 1, 2023, and comes after years of talks between lawmakers and Virginia Farm Bureau — requires Virginia farmers to apply for farm use placards through the DMV. The placards will have an alphanumeric identification number and are nontransferable.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed Republican-led House and Senate bills related to the tags into Virginia law early this month. HB179 and SB186 were identical bills sponsored by Del. Robert Bloxom Jr., R-Mappsville, and Sen. Emmett Hanger Jr., R-Mount Solon.

Andrew Smith, associate director of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau, says the DMV could charge $15 for the placard, and ask farmers to disclose the size of their farms and kind of crops they produce to help verify legitimacy.

“It’s really important to preserve this exemption,” Smith said. “The legislature, the executive branch, saw the importance of preserving it because farmers typically only use these vehicles a few weeks out of the year. Harvesting and planting season is primarily when they use it so it’s really important. We were able to do something to cut out the abuse.”

In the current environment, anyone can go into a farm supply store and purchase a Farm Use placard for their vehicle, whether it is being used for farm purposes or not. Experts say that the misuse of these tags by non-farmers has been going on for more than a decade.

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