Dear Ace: I see a few vehicles driving around Charlottesville with license plates that have FARM USE in bold red letters. What does this mean? Are these vehicles insured like any other vehicle?—Mitch Fork
Mitch: Father Atkins might be cross with Ace after he finishes revealing this, but when Ace was a young man, his dad liked to take him on trips to the landfill. They’d pile into the Atkins pickup and head to the county. Before they left, Father would pop a sign in the windshield: “FARM USE,” it said. Though, it wasn’t so much a sign as it was a scrap piece of cardboard with the words scrawled on it in permanent marker.
See, doing this brought considerable benefits, the most important of which was a decrease in the amount of fees Father Atkins had to pay. Of course, there were probably some actual farmers that had actual farm use vehicles (the Atkins family certainly did not live on a farm), and for those few, the benefits were (and are) even greater.
A farm use vehicle is a vehicle that is used for—wait for it—farm use. Basically, the vehicle can’t be used for anything other than farm-related business, which according to Virginia State Code, includes: traveling between two farms no more than 30 miles apart; driving the vehicle to be repaired; transporting garbage generated on the farm to the landfill; getting farm supplies (including livestock) from a location no more than 30 miles away; and driving to the nearest packing plant, market, or storage facility no more than 50 miles away.
Now, Ace realizes those seem like a lot of restrictions, but consider this: A farm use vehicle does not require a registration certificate, license plate, or decals. That means no registration fees or insurance are necessary!
Something else you might see around town is a vehicle with an F-tag. An F-tag is similar to a farm use plate, but a vehicle with an F-tag is required to pay fees (which are still less than a regular vehicle) and obtain insurance. The plus side of that, though, is that the driving restrictions are less limited. How? You can drive between farms that are, say, 35 miles apart! Oh, Ace teases.
You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 20 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.