AUGUSTA (AP) – Maine’s top motor vehicle official on Friday unveiled the state’s latest specialty license plate, which will pay tribute to farmers.

Bearing the slogan “Support Local Agriculture,” the plates will raise money to teach children about farms and farming.

Advocates from agriculture-advocacy organizations completed rigorous requirements to get their specialty plate approved, including collecting 2,000 signatures and funds to start production.

A check for $40,000 for the plate’s production was turned over Friday to Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who expressed optimism that a final requirement for the plate’s approval – legislative authorization – is likely.

Dunlap, who is from a farming family, said he expects the tags to start showing up on vehicles sometime in 2007.

The plates feature black silhouettes of a farmer and child on the left and a barn and field on the right with registration numbers in the middle. The figures overlay a a background of red at the top, fading to orange and yellow.

License plates were first used on automobiles in Maine 101 years ago. For years they were strictly for identification purposes, but with several specialty issues and vanity plates in use now, they are seen as a way for motorists to identify themselves, said Dunlap.

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