Californians can order license plates paying tribute to firefighters, Olympic athletes, Lake Tahoe and even the post-9/11 war on terror. In the coming weeks, one more cause will be added to that list: farming.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing the Cal Ag Special License Plate in March or April, spokesman Artemio Armenta confirmed Tuesday. Production of automotive plates is under way, with motorcycle tags to follow, he said.
The farming-themed tags are California’s 11th “special-interest” plate design, but the first to be approved since the passage of a state law a decade ago that requires at least 7,500 paid pledges for a new plate style before it enters production, officials said.
Supporters of the agricultural plate reached that threshold in May, according to Steve Lyle, spokesman for the state Department of Food and Agriculture, which co-sponsored the push for a farming-related license plate along with FFA and the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association. The teachers’ group reported on its website that 8,355 motorists have pre-ordered the agriculture plate.
First proposed in 2009, the Ag Special License Plate includes the word “agriculture” in red at the bottom, along with a left-side rectangular logo with the words “Food — Fiber — Fuel — Flora,” reflecting the Golden State’s diversity of crops.
Proceeds from the sale and renewal of the special plates will benefit agricultural extension, career awareness and training programs in the state, which Lyle called a key to filling the ranks of aging and retiring landowners in a $43 billion industry.
“The average age of a farmer in California is pushing 60 now, so the need for a new generation of farmers to come forward is significant,” he said. “Also, there’s about 300 different jobs connected to farming, and there’s a need for people to fill those jobs also. Food demand in the world will increase and opportunities on our farms will increase, and we need people to be able to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Beyond the funding the new plates provide for education, the tags also will serve as small but numerous billboards for industries easily overlooked in California’s cities, local and state officials predicted.
“I think anything that helps remind people about agriculture is important — beyond the local wine industry (to) what it provides to us in economics and open space,” Dave Whitmer, Napa County agriculture commissioner, said Wednesday.
“It should be obvious,” he added about the economic importance of California agriculture, “but sometimes it isn’t.”
“For everything else California is — it’s a great wine state, it’s got the greatest cities and beaches and mountains and a diversity of attractions — this serves as reminder to folks who may not have agriculture’s significance at the top of their mind, that California is an ag powerhouse,” said Lyle.
Like California’s other themed license plates, the agricultural tags will cost $50 for a standard, random number and $40 for annual renewals, or $98 with a personalized number with renewals at $78 a year.