Are you equipped? Prepare your farm vehicles for the highway

If you are like me when you drive down the road alone you have a lot of thinking time, often making observations you might not make when you have someone to chat with. I laugh how our observations are relative to what we are doing in life. When I was in college living in a fraternity house, as I drove by a large old house, I would think what a great “House” that would make and how many brothers could live there. Now, working in governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau I notice vehicles and the potential violations or hazards present. For example, I notice when a driver is talking on their cell phone and not using a hands-free device, or for commercial trucks what the heftier fine that would be.

I am not the only one that thinks about it – just the other day I got a text asking me to settle a family argument. Apparently, they were discussing the color lights a farm vehicle may display on Virginia roadways. As someone that grew up on a farm and have had hundreds if not thousands of those “discussions” I could just visualize them having this intense conversation. That question gave me the idea to remind farmers of what equipment is required on the various vehicles and equipment they drive across the highways in the Commonwealth.

Producers spend a lot of time behind the wheel of a truck in planting and harvest season so its paramount that each make sure they have the proper safety equipment such as lights, horns, tire tread etc.

As you may know, I have conducted a lot of informational sessions on farm vehicle laws. I typically conduct these along with members of the Virginia State Police Motor Carrier Division and occasionally representatives from the Department of Motor Vehicles. At one such meeting the trooper speaking presented required safety equipment on each vehicle type in a convenient table, so I stole the idea! You can view my version of the table here: Required Equipment for Farm Trucks & Machinery I’d encourage you to review the table to see if you are equipped on each of your farm trucks and equipment. Each code section has a hyperlink that takes you directly to the General Assembly website showing the code online.

The table mentioned above breaks the requirements down in columns by vehicle type, including those using Farm Use, Registered Farm Vehicle (F-tag), those with non-farm truck registrations typically used in agriculture. The linked handout also has a table for farm equipment.

It doesn’t take long to make that pre-trip inspection to make sure your truck is ready for the road. It also doesn’t take that long to check your farm equipment before you go to the next field – its time well spent. There are also many things in addition to these requirements you should consider, any precaution can save from having a headache, or losing a life.

Remember you can always access the Virginia Farm Bureau Resources page here: https://www.vafb.com/membership-at-work/farmers-in-action/resources

Andrew Smith, Associate Director

Initiative Encourages Virginians to Commit to Soil Conservation

Soil is at the heart of all of Earth’s ecosystems, providing critical resources needed to support plant, animal and human life.

To raise awareness about the importance of soil health, the Virginia Soil Health Coalition is launching the 4 the Soil Awareness Initiative in partnership with Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Soil is a fundamental element of all food production, and conserving soil health is crucial to sustaining the food supply for a growing global population. Because of that, the initiative encourages Virginia farmers and landowners to adopt four principles: keep soil covered, minimize soil disturbance, maximize living roots; and energize with diversity.

The project will kick off June 23 in conjunction with National Soil Health Day.

“The really neat thing about the initiative is that it has a lot of pieces and potential audiences,” said Virginia Soil Health Coalition coordinator Mary Sketch. “Right now, it’s targeting soil managers and all of the ways that looks—farmers, technical assistance providers, landowners in general or master gardeners. Meeting those people where they are, and using the initiative to educate and raise awareness, creates a large umbrella that really pulls everyone together.”

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EPA’s Move to Reverse the Navigable Waters Protection Rule Put a New Spin on an Old Threat to Farmers

On June 9, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of the Army (the agencies) announced their intent to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), and reverse the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) currently in place. At the same time, the Department of Justice is filing a motion requesting remand of the rule.

This action reflects the agencies’ intent to initiate a rulemaking process to develop a new rule that defines WOTUS and is informed by stakeholder engagement, as well as the experience of implementing the pre-2015 rule, the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, and the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The agencies have stated their new regulatory effort will be guided by the following considerations:

  • Protecting water resources and our communities consistent with the Clean Water Act.
  • The latest science and the effects of climate change on our waters.
  • Emphasizing a rule with a practical implementation approach for state and Tribal partners.
  • Reflecting the experience of and input received from landowners, the agricultural community that fuels and feeds the world, states, Tribes, local governments, community organizations, environmental groups, and disadvantaged communities with environmental justice concerns. 
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Producers with Crop Insurance to Receive Premium Benefit for Cover Crops

Agricultural producers who have coverage under most crop insurance policies are eligible for a premium benefit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) if they planted cover crops during this crop year. The Pandemic Cover Crop Program (PCCP), offered nationally by USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), helps farmers maintain their cover crop systems, despite the financial challenges posed by the pandemic.

The PCCP is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, a bundle of programs to bring financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and producers who felt the impact of COVID-19 market disruptions.

“Cultivating cover crops requires a sustained, long-term investment, and the economic challenges of the pandemic made it financially challenging for many producers to maintain cover crop systems,” said RMA Acting Administrator Richard Flournoy. “Producers use cover crops to improve soil health and gain other agronomic benefits, and this program will reduce producers’ overall premium bill to help ensure producers can continue this climates-smart agricultural practice.”

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Farm Bureau Looking Forward to Working with New Ag Officials

Copenhaver

Brad Copenhaver was named Virginia’s 17th commissioner of agriculture by Gov. Ralph Northam on May 21.

Copenhaver comes to the post after serving as deputy secretary of agriculture and forestry since May 2018. Prior to that he was director of government affairs for the Virginia Agribusiness Council and worked as a legislative correspondent for Rep. H. Morgan Griffith, R-9th.

“From his farming roots to his advocacy on behalf of agriculture, we have had many opportunities to work with Brad and look forward to continuing our collaboration with him as commissioner,” said Wayne F. Pryor, president of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “We are confident in his abilities to provide leadership for a number of critical programs that support farmers and agribusinesses in the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.”

Copenhaver, a native of Washington County, grew up on his family’s beef cattle and burley tobacco farm. He was a Pamplin Scholar at Virginia Tech, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in political science and agricultural economics. He also holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Washington.

Hertz

Northam also appointed Heidi Hertz as Virginia’s deputy secretary of agriculture and forestry. Hertz previously served as assistant secretary of agriculture and forestry, and prior to joining the Northam administration she held positions in the office of the former first lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth and the Virginia Department of Health.

“We appreciate all of the work that Ms. Hertz has accomplished in connecting farmers and food banks to increase access to healthy food for families facing food insecurity,” Pryor said. “We look forward to working with her as she starts this new role as deputy secretary, and we know that she will be taking on several initiatives to fortify agriculture and forestry as the top industries in Virginia.”

Raised in Lunenburg County, Hertz holds a bachelor’s degree from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech and a master’s degree from James Madison University.