Changes in store for farm vehicles starting July 1

Published 5:31 pm Thursday, June 27, 2024

July 1 marks the start of a statewide crackdown on unauthorized “farm use” license plates.

Virginia’s General Assembly, in 2023, passed legislation setting a one-year grace period for farmers to purchase permanent plates issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles for trucks and SUVs with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 7,500 pounds or less if they wish to claim the exemption from DMV registration and annual state inspections state law affords farm vehicles.

According to a DMV news release, anyone who owns or leases an eligible farm vehicle must fill out a VSA 132 form, available on the DMV website at, and return it to the local DMV office. The new plates cost $15 each and remain valid for the life of the vehicle. An additional $15 may be required if the owner does not hold a title for the vehicle.

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Currently, anyone can purchase the generic red-and-white farm use plates from the nearest agriculture supply store. According to Katelyn Rose Jordan, a local and state advocacy specialist with the Virginia Farm Bureau, the law was passed in response to increased abuse of the exemption by non-farmers and to assist law enforcement.

“While vehicles – including pickup and panel trucks – with a GVWR greater than 7,500 pounds as well as trailers and semi-trailers will continue to operate under the exemption as ‘normal’ by displaying a traditional red-and-white placard available for purchase at their local feed store, the changes in the law provide these users, as well as those required to purchase a placard, with new uses under the exemption,” Jordan said. “A farmer can now stop to procure a meal, as well as dispose of trash incidental to the farm.”

Capt. Tommy Potter, a spokesman for the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office, said he wouldn’t characterize misuse of the generic farm use plates as “abusive” in Isle of Wight County, “but it does happen,” he said.

“Often, we find drivers who are not able to renew their vehicle registration or don’t have the vehicles properly insured utilizing farm plates illegally,” Potter said. “Being able to purchase the red-and-white plates, without any justification, at any farm supply or hardware store made it easy to circumvent the intended meaning of the law allowing these tags.”

Michael Drewry, a farmer from Surry County, said he owns three trucks with farm use plates.

“It has been nice to not have to deal with DMV. Seems I now will have to,” Drewry said.

A brochure published jointly by the Virginia Farm Bureau, DMV, State Police and Virginia Sheriff’s Association states vehicles, including pickup and panel trucks weighing greater than 7,500 pounds, can still display the red-and-white plates if used for agricultural purposes.

Vehicles displaying the new DMV-issued plates, and those still legally able to display the red-and-white tags, are only allowed on public roads for limited purposes including crossing a highway, transporting a farmer between his or her residence and fields, or going to and from a refuse disposal facility or repair shop. They’re allowed to drive up to 75 miles on public roads for the purpose of obtaining agricultural supplies or going from one field to another owned by the driver.

According to the brochure, vehicles displaying the new DMV-issued farm use plates or the red-and-white tags are still exempt from having to be registered with the DMV, and aren’t required to submit to an annual state inspection, though they must carry insurance.

According to DMV spokeswoman Jillian Cowherd, farm vehicles with license plates known as “F-tags,” which begin with a single letter “F,” are unaffected by the July 1 change in state law. Vehicles with F-tags, according to the brochure, are allowed limited non-farm uses but are required to register with the DMV and pass annual state inspections like non-farm vehicles.