In addition to other specialty plates such as the Children's Trust Fund and collegiate logos, Missouri Farm Bureau is working to add an agriculture plate to the mix, promoting one of their youth programs.
"We developed this license plate as an opportunity to showcase agriculture on the highways and raise extra revenue for our Agriculture In the Classroom program," said Diane Olson, director of promotion and education programs for Missouri Farm Bureau.
Jami Geske of Matthews, the south director-at-large of the MFB Board of Directors, agreed. "Hopefully, it will be a great fund-raiser and also promote agriculture by its visibility throughout communities across the state," she said.
Legislation passed in 2004 was the first step toward the special agriculture license plate. Senate Bill 1233, sponsored by Sen. Jon Dolan, R-St. Charles County, granted MFB the authority to create a specialty license plate for the AIC program.
But, several more steps followed to getting the plates in production and on Missouri vehicles. MFB has to collect 200 applications and appropriate license fees for the Department of Revenue.
Although Olson admitted she hasn't counted the applications received yet, she said they are probably about halfway there. "Since we started promoting it in June, I've gotten a lot of interests, inquiries and checks," she said.
A design has already been approved by the MFB Board of Directors, Geske said. As soon as the 200 applications are received, it will be forwarded to the Department of Revenue for review. The plate will then go through a public approval process and receive final authorization by a joint legislative committee.
Olson admitted she isn't sure how long it will take for the plates to be produced after receiving the minimum number of applications. It will probably be between six months and a year. "We want to get this done as soon as possible so we can get them on the road," she said.
Any vehicle not in excess of 18,000 pounds is eligible for specialty license plates.
An annual $25 tax-deductible donation to AIC must be made by owners with the plates. This will be used for AIC, and Farm Bureau plans to use these funds to enhance efforts to promote agricultural literacy.
Those with specialty plates must also pay a $15 specialty license fee, in addition to regular licensing requirements. "It's just like university plates," Olson said. "There's nothing new in the cost or how it's done."
Using AIC as a logo for specialty license plates has been done for several years in other states such as Tennessee and Maryland. "They have been very successful at using the license plates to help create resources for their programs," Olson said.
AIC, which is in place in every state, was started by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1981 and is housed in Missouri, Olson said. It brings agriculture to life in both urban and rural classrooms and also sponsors learning activities at the state fair.
"It's purpose is to get the message of agriculture in the classrooms so teachers can share the importance of it" she noted. "Students usually germinate seeds, but they don't carry on after that, so students don't know what it produces, how to care for it, the process it goes through to make it into a food or how important it is to the economy."
"I'm a great supporter of the foundation because it supports so many great agriculture programs, such as mini-grants to teachers, scholarships and individual promotion products," said Geske, who has already applied for two of the plates.
Right now, the highest percentage of students in classrooms are three or for generations removed from agriculture. And it is important for them to understand the impact agriculture has, Olson said. "In the future, those students will be decision makers in Jefferson City and Washington D.C., making laws that impact agriculture," she explained.
Geske anticipates several area motorists will get the plates. "I would think anyone involved in agriculture, whether agribusiness or direct ag production would get them," she said. "Agriculture is a major part of the economy in the state of Missouri and I hope we can get some support from the people of our state."
Those interested in obtaining one of the AIC license plates can request them through their MFB home office or county office. They may also visit the promotion and education section at www.mofb.org to print an application to fill out.