Farmers Hope to Protect Privilege of Vehicle Exemptions
A new state law restricting the kinds of vehicles allowed to display Farm Use license plates is being met with approval by Virginia farmers, who hope the stricter rules will reduce abuse of the tags.
The Farm Use tag exempts farmers from paying state and local registration fees for vehicles used only for agriculture and driven just short distances on public roads. Under the new law, which took effect on July 1, only pickup trucks, SUVs, panel trucks, trailers and other equipment with a gross weight greater than 7,500 pounds can display a Farm Use tag.
Before the new law took effect, any vehicle could be driven with Farm Use tags if the vehicle was used only for agriculture or if the driver said the vehicle was only being used for agriculture.
Though the Farm Use exemption spared farmers the time and expense of registering their farm vehicles, it also provided an easy way for others to drive unsafe or unregistered vehicles.
Trooper Dale Sine, a Virginia State Police officer at the Luray Area Office, said that drivers who misuse Farm Use tags frequently are hiding other problems. Often, he said, those vehicles are uninsured or would not pass a state safety inspection both of which create potential hazards for others on the road.
Since the new law took effect, Sine said state troopers have been working hard to crack down on abuse of the Farm Use tags.
We enforce (the new restrictions) pretty heavily when we have a chance, he said.
A spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police said the agency keeps no statewide statistics on the number of citations that have been issued since July for improper use of a Farm Use tag. Sine estimated that troopers stationed in his office have written at least one a week within Page County alone.
Farm leaders are welcoming the new law, hoping that it will end widespread abuse that reflected poorly on those who honestly put Farm Use tags on their farm vehicles.
There are a lot of people out here who have (those tags) on their trucks, but they re not farming It gives us a bad name, said Les Clem, president of the Page County Farmers Association.
Clay Brumback, president of the Clarke County Farm Bureau, also said he and his colleagues support the new law, particularly since abusing the tags caused farmers to worry that the state would simply take away the privilege entirely. One potential side effect of stricter new rules, Brumback said, is that farmers might face more scrutiny from law enforcement when driving vehicles with Farm Use tags.
(But) if you don t have anything to hide, it shouldn t be a big deal, he said.