I was an early and proud adopter of the license plate showcasing a red barn, silo and rolling green fields crowned with the sun. I’ve had the Michigan Agricultural Heritage specialty license plate for so long the paint was peeling off.
It’s been on one truck, two cars and three SUVs since it was first offered in 2001. Many people are ag-proud and happy to support FFA and K-12 agricultural education by paying a little extra for the specialty plate and an extra annual registration fee.
However, commercial vehicles were not allowed to use the specialty plates until late in 2019, when legislation was signed to grant the expanded use of the plates to all vehicles, regardless of purpose. It now allows commercial vehicles, including company-owned and university vehicles, to use the Agricultural Heritage plate.
That idea to expand the specialty plate offering (which includes all of Michigan’s specialty plates) was pushed by Bob Craig, former development director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and retired president of Craig and Associates Consulting.
“I’ve always had an Ag Heritage license plate,” he says. “When I left state government in 2010 and formed my own consulting business, I had to remove my Ag Heritage plate because it was no longer considered a passenger vehicle, but rather a commercial vehicle,” he says.
In response, he rallied ag groups, which presented the idea to allow specialty plates on commercial vehicles to Michigan Sen. Roger Victory, who sponsored the bill that passed unanimously with bipartisan support in both chambers.
“The goal is to get $100,000 a year into the FFA Foundation as opposed to just $60,000, which is what we were getting with the old program,” says Craig, who has served in the past on the FFA Foundation board. “It’s so important to help young people, particularly with Michigan FFA, obtain more leadership training and experience. I'm just passionate about FFA and young people, who are our future.”
The uptake on this new offering has been lukewarm, so several Michigan ag companies are committed to changing that through the Michigan Ag Heritage Plate Challenge.
Michigan’s agricultural organizations are challenging businesses and farmers to support the Michigan FFA Foundation and ag education. In the next decade, the goal is to double the $1 million it’s already raised.
For $35, Michigan drivers can purchase the Ag Heritage plate to replace a valid license plate, with $25 of the purchase fee being donated to support FFA and K-12 agricultural education programs across the state. And at the time of renewal, the additional $10 fee added to a vehicle registration fee is also contributed to an endowment fund.
Several ag organizations have already made the corporate pledge to transition their company vehicles, including Michigan Farm Bureau, AgroLiquid, Crystal Flash, Michigan Ag Commodities, Michigan Corn Growers Association, Star of the West, and Michigan Pork Producers.
“We want to support our FFA kids,” says Jim Zook, executive director of the Michigan Corn Growers Association, which has two vehicles with Ag Heritage plates. “We have found extreme value in our interns when they've had the FFA leadership. My hope is others will see that and, hopefully, other businesses and farms will purchase Ag Heritage plates.”
Ag Heritage plates can be purchased through any Secretary of State office or by visiting and clicking on the “Owning a Vehicle” link for order forms.
Bruce Sutherland, president of Michigan Agricultural Commodities, says, “MAC has always believed in supporting 4-H and FFA because they are our customers, future customers and future employees. With the ag sector shrinking, it’s important to keep people interested in agriculture and be able to relate to what our heritage is all about.”
The plan, Sutherland says, is to transition all 30 MAC vehicles to the Ag Heritage plate as registrations come due. “It’s important we support ag youth leadership programs,” he adds.
My paint-peeling plate was replaced this spring with a new one — this is my third one. My first plate was personalized with AFT 2, when I was employed by American Farmland Trust — my boss was AFT 1. I should note the personalization fee does not benefit FFA.
Eighteen years ago when I got the job as Michigan Farmer editor, I purchased my second plate and personalized it with MIFRM — although someone jokingly told me they thought it stood for “Am I Firm.”
This time, with an expanded job and new car, I chose not to personalize it this time … I don’t know how I would condense Michigan Farmer, Ohio Farmer and American Agriculturist into an acronym anyone could decipher.
Regardless whether you personalize or not, show your passion for agriculture and Michigan youth — buy an Ag Heritage plate.
For more information on the Michigan Ag Heritage License Plate and how to participate in the Corporate Pledge Challenge, visit michiganffa.org or contact Kyle Schaberg, Michigan FFA Foundation assistant director of development, at 517-432-2482 or email@example.com.