Bill regulating farm use placards signed into law

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Farming is challenging work, and transportation often creates difficulty and expense for farmers. But, there are some allowances in Virginia law to help ease some of the burden.

One such exemption is the ability to use farm vehicles on the state’s roadways with minimum requirements. Farmers frequently will display farm use placards to signify they’re using vehicles solely for the purposes allowed, which permit farmers to waive defined aspects of Virginia’s vehicle registration process.

However, after years of misuse by the state’s non-farming public, the process for obtaining placards now will be fully regulated under 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 farm use placards. The law has an effective date of July 1, 2023, to allow farmers to learn about 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. Del. Ronnie Campbell, R-Fairfield, sponsored a similar bill that was rolled into the House version.

The new legislation requires Virginia farmers to apply for farm use placards through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. The placards will have an alphanumeric identification number and are nontransferable. They also must be displayed at all times.

Vehicles eligible for farm use placards are limited to pickup or panel trucks, sport utility vehicles, vehicles with a gross weight rating greater than 7,500 pounds, and trailers and semitrailers.

On the DMV application, farmers must provide the name of the owner or lessee of the vehicle for which the farm use exemption is being claimed; the location and acreage of each farm where the vehicle will be used; and the type and amount of agricultural commodity produced annually.

The application also will require a statement signed by the owner or lessee that the vehicle will be used for purposes set forth in the Code of Virginia. These purposes include activities such as transporting supplies to and from fields during planting and harvest seasons, transporting product to market, and return trips of exempted farm vehicles.

Lastly, the application requires a signed statement that the exempted vehicle is insured with liability coverage. The actual allowed uses of farm vehicles to qualify did not change in the new legislation.

Under the new law, Virginia DMV may charge $15 for the new placard.

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, which supported the House and Senate bills in the 2022 Virginia General Assembly, applauded the bill’s passage.

“It’s important to preserve the exemption for the legitimate uses of farm vehicles,” said Andrew Smith, VFBF associate director of governmental relations.

“Virginia Farm Bureau members were willing to go through a formal process to help identify operators and have them attest to the proper use of these vehicles and verification of insurance. We appreciate Virginia legislators and Virginia DMV for working with our organization to formalize this program.”