Farm tags could see change in restrictions

Published 3:00 am Saturday, March 28, 2015

Alabama farmers would have the option to purchase additional farm tags for trucks and tractors if legislation sponsored by Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy, is passed.

Boothe is the sponsor of House Bill 217, which seeks to end limits on the number of F4 farm tags farmers can purchase for vehicles used to transport product. Boothe said he felt the need to sponsor the bill after it was passed by the House last year 95-0.

“This bill is simply a tool to allow his farmer to get his product to market in a timely manner,” Boothe said. “Some products only have short window before they have to be processed or refrigerated. It’s something to speed up the process so farmers can make use of multiple tractor trucks getting more product to market.”

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F4 farm tags are for trucks over 42,2001 pounds and cost $250 each while X9 farm tags, for trucks over 80,000 pounds, cost as much as $890. The F4 tags are the only tags limited for purchase in the state of Alabama and are for farm use only.

Boothe said removing the restrictions would give farmers more flexibility in utilizing vehicles to transport their products.

“We have a lot of farmers that take their product to the elevators, and they have to wait for the product to be unloaded,” Boothe said. “When they have to wait to have a trailer unloaded, they to stop their gathering process in the fall and they have to wait for them to sell it in order to get their tractors back.”

Boothe said by allowing farmers to purchase additional farm tags the farmers may have the opportunity to use additional trucks for transporting products.

The bill does have the potential to reduce county revenues, but Boothe believes that impact will be minimal.

“It’s not a lot of money,” Boothe said. “The only time a farmer can use this tag is when he’s taking product to market, and he’ll only use it two to three weeks every year while he’s gathering his product.”

Boothe said the amount of product that could be taken to market would have a positive fiscal impact on Pike County simply because farmers would be able to do more in the same amount of time and for less money.

“The more product we get to market, the more farming we’ll get done and the better we’ll be,” Boothe said. “We don’t have an automobile plant, but farming drives much of the economy in Pike and Dale counties.”

David Cole, director of state legislative programs for Alabama Farmers Federation, agreed with Boothe.

“They can’t use those trucks for anything else, so we feel they should not have to pay premium price for a tag, which would be the same as a commercial hauler that’s on the road 365 days a year,” Cole said.

“I would hope that the county commission would support this bill, because it helps farmers and it helps rural Pike County. Agriculture in Pike County is a $539 million dollar industry per year.”

Cole said there are no limitations on any other tag besides an F4 tag.

“There is not a limitation on any other tag besides an F4 tag, and we don’t know why,” Cole said.

“I have talked to the Alabama Department of Revenue and they don’t know why it is either. The F4 Farm tag costs about $250 dollars, but an X tag can go up to $850, so we don’t believe farmers should have to pay a premium price for a tag when they’re only on the road for three to four months a year.”

With only 11 F4 tags being purchased in Pike County for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, Cole said it was safe to say the county could possibly see an increase of revenue from the proposed legislation.

“A total of 11 tags that were purchased, nine of those farmers only purchased one farm tag and did not purchase a subsequent X tag,” Cole said. “It’s safe to say, that with the passage of that bill, there could potentially be an increase in revenue. Those farmers that only purchased one F4 tag and did not purchase an X tag may be more likely to purchase a subsequent tag if fees were to be decreased.”

Earlier this week at the Pike County Republican Women’s meeting, Probate Judge Wes Allen said he supported the bill because it would remove the limitations put on farmers.

“We depend on a farmer three times a day, so it’s pretty important,” Allen said. “We have to make sure that we support them. I want to support them, so that’s a good bill by Rep. Boothe.”