15 November 2017

Farm Use Abuse

If you live in Virginia, you've seen a truck roaring past you on a highway and looked over to see that it doesn't have real plates. Instead, it has a piece of cardboard attached to it that says "Farm Use." Of course, there ain't a farm anywhere in shouting distance. Personally, I see two types of trucks that do this: (1) Hunks of junk which are held together by lots of duct tape and a few prayers, and (2) Brand spanking new $60,000 behemoths. Shockingly, almost no one I know believes these vehicles are being actually used for farm purposes. Now, I know what you're thinking: Surely none of the good, honest, hard working citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia would ever try to abuse a loophole in the system. But, just in case you run into the ever-so-rare Virginian rule breaker or a guy who moved here from some Yankee State, here are the rules as I understand them.

Registered Farm Use


§ 46.2-698 - First of all, if a vehicle has a 7,500 pound "gross vehicle weight rating" then it can be a registered farm use vehicle. There are cost advantages to this as opposed to regular registration and it comes with its own DMV issued plate. Gross vehicle weight rating is the amount of weight the vehicle is supposed to be able to carry including its own weight. Most commonly, these are large pickup trucks such as the Ford F-250 or Ram 2500 or work vans.

(A) When used for farm purposes, the registered farm vehicle can only be used by the person running the farm and it can transport (1) items to market, (2) materials, tools, or supplies for the farm, (3) things incidental to regular farm operation, (3) forest products, and (4) items to a farm that is in a coop with the farmer.  However, (B) a registered farm vehicle can be used by the farmer or his immediate family for other reasons: (1) to go to church, (2) to go to school, (3) to get medical supplies, (4) to get medical treatment, and (5) to get household or family necessities.

Non-Registered Farm Use

Of course, the problem isn't really with registered farm use vehicles. The problem is with people avoiding registration altogether by slapping a plastic sign they bought online on their truck and driving it everywhere. Here are the rules for them.

§ 46.2-665 - First, there is no limitation on whom the driver can be, although the owner must be a farmer. Second, it's limited to certain classes of vehicles: (1) pickup trucks, (2) panel trucks, (3) SUV's, (4) those with a gross vehicle weight rating of over 7,500 pounds, (5) trailers, and (6) semi-trailers. While that's pretty broad it does leave out the family car and Uncle Mike's motorcycle at least.

If a vehicle is being used for farm use it can (1) cross a highway, (2) go up to 75 miles to get to another farm tract, (3) go to a repair shop, (4) go to a trash dump, (5) drive up to 75 miles to get farm supplies, and (6) transport a fruit spray vehicle, harvest transport vehicle, or vehicle used to transport unginned cotton, peanuts, or fertilizer owned by the farmer, cotton ginner, peanut buyer, or fertilizer distributor to a repair shop.

There' an interesting addendum to this found in § 46.2-673 which specifies that if no registration is required to go somewhere none can be required for the drive back. Specifically, it states no registration is required while (1) returning from the marketplace, (2) transporting supplies to a farm, or (3) transporting "ordinary and essential" food and products to a farm for use at the farm or home.

Notable Differences

Number three in the last paragraph is interesting because the statute allowing unregistered farm use vehicles,§ 46.2-665, does not allow trips specifically to buy products for home and family. This is presumably a purposeful omission because we know the General Assembly specifically allowed it for registered farm use vehicles in § 46.2-698. What the exception in § 46.2-673 appears to be is a mixed use exception. If the farmer goes to his local Tractor Supply store and buys some boots or a shirt there he wouldn't need the truck to be registered to drive back to the farm. Stretching it a little, if he walks to the Sav-A-Lot grocery next to the Tractor Supply Store (they are side by side in my jurisdiction) and buys that weeks' groceries he shouldn't be in trouble because he's not taken the truck anywhere once it stopped at Tractor Supply. However, if he drives across the street to buy groceries at Food City he's outside allowed use - not because he'll be driving back with supplies for home, but because the drive from the Tractor Supply store across the street to the Food City required registration.

Note also that while the registered farm use vehicle is allowed to take things to a market or point of sale, there is no such allowance for the unregistered farm use vehicle. For example, a registered farm use vehicle could go to the local Farmer's Market while an unregistered one cannot.

Perhaps the biggest difference is one wrought by our General Assembly this year. As of 01 July 2017, if anyone is driving an unregistered farm use vehicle § 46.2-665(C) allows any officer to require the driver to give the address of his farm or, if the driver can't supply the address the real property parcel identification number of the farm (whatever the heck that is). Thus, an officer still needs reasonable suspicion to pull over a registered farm vehicle, but he can pull over an unregistered farm vehicle at any time. I'm pretty sure this change in the law came out of the frustration over the widespread abuse of this exception to registration laws and hopefully it will help to curtail them.

Punishment

Not too much. Under § 46.2-613(6) the punishment is up to $250 the first time caught and a flat $250 fine every time thereafter. 

Other Statutes that Apply

 46.2-664: OK if has equipment “securely attached” which is for spraying fruit
46.2-672: OK if transporting unginned cotton, peanuts, or fertilizer.
46.2-666: OK if transporting livestock within 75 miles to the nearest storage house, packing plant, or market
46.2-670: OK if transportating wood products farm to sawmill – 75 miles
46.2-671: Mine vehicle – 20 miles – from mine to mine or repair shop
46.2-668: Out of State vehicles for harvesting: $150 permit – on driver or displayed –
only 20 miles
46.2-684: Must have lights if used at night
46.2-684.1: If covered by other insurance does not need automobile insurance

No comments: