Farming is hard work, and transportation often creates hardship and expense for farmers. But, there are allowances in Virginia law to help ease some of the burden.
One of these exemptions is the ability to operate farm vehicles on state roads with minimum requirements. Farmers will frequently post farm use placards to signify that they use vehicles only for permitted purposes, allowing farmers to waive defined aspects of Virginia’s vehicle registration process.
However, after years of misuse by the state’s non-farm public, the process of obtaining the signs will now be fully regulated by the new legislation.
Governor Glenn Youngkin signed HB 179 and SB 186 into Virginia law on April 1, establishing a formal process for Virginia farmers to acquire permanent agricultural use signs. The law comes into force on July 1, 2023 to allow farmers to educate themselves and prepare for the new requirements.
HB179 and SB186 were identical bills sponsored by Del. Robert S. Bloxom Jr., R-Mappsville and Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Mount Solon. Of the. Ronnie Campbell, R-Fairfield, sponsored a similar bill that made it into the House version.
New legislation requires Virginia farmers to apply for agricultural use placards through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Plates will have an alphanumeric identification number and are not transferable. They must also be displayed at all times.
Vehicles eligible for agricultural use plates are limited to pickup trucks or pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 7,500 pounds, and trailers and semi-trailers.
On the DMV application, farmers must provide:
- the name of the owner or lessee of the vehicle for which the exemption for agricultural use is requested;
- the location and area of each farm where the vehicle will be used;
- and the type and quantity of agricultural products produced annually.
The application will also require a signed statement from the owner or lessee that the vehicle will be used for the purposes set forth in the Code of Virginia. These goals include activities such as transporting supplies to and from fields during planting and harvesting seasons, transporting produce to market, and transporting exempt agricultural vehicles back and forth.
Finally, the application requires a signed statement that the exempt vehicle is insured with liability coverage. The actual permitted uses of agricultural vehicles to qualify have not changed in the new legislation.
Under the new law, Virginia DMV can charge $15 for the new sign.
The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, which supported the House and Senate bills in the 2022 Virginia General Assembly, applauded the bill’s passage.
“It is important to preserve the exemption for legitimate uses of agricultural vehicles,” said Andrew Smith, VFBF associate director of government relations.
“Virginia Farm Bureau members were willing to follow a formal process to help identify operators and have them certify the proper use of these vehicles and verification of insurance. We appreciate the Virginia legislators and Virginia DMV for working with our organization to formalize this program.