(KELLEY McCALL ~ Associated Press)
Nixon held the signing ceremony just a few hours after the formal end of the 2009 legislative session, when lawmakers gave his office the bills approved by the House and Senate before they adjourned May 15.
The tractor parade measure took effect immediately, clearing the way for an event scheduled for Sunday in the central Missouri town of Vichy. Until now, farm tractors were allowed on state roads only when they were being driven between fields.
"Agriculture has been the backbone of Missouri's economy ever since statehood, and it's a rich part of our heritage," Nixon said. Missourians have held tractor parades in the past despite questions about their legality.
Sponsoring Sen. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Spring, said there had been confusion about who can approve tractor parades. He said the state Department of Transportation had raised concerns about safety and legal liability if someone were to be injured.
Under the new law, the Missouri State Highway Patrol could approve daytime parades to raise money for charity so long as the drivers were licensed.
Highway Patrol spokesman Capt. Tim Hull said the patrol already has an application for the Vichy parade and that there is enough time to approve it before Sunday.
Hull said that local troops would work with tractor parade organizers to complete an application for the patrol's superintendent to approve. Decisions on individual events will hinge on the planned route, number of vehicles, time of year and any required assistance.
Nixon signed about a dozen ceremonial copies of the bill to be handed out to a crowd standing behind him, which included part of the Heart of America Tractor Club.
The club has scheduled a parade in June through northwest Missouri's Nodaway County to raise money for three charities. Organizers said 230 to 250 tractors will travel about 56 miles at about 10 mph in a loop that starts and ends at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville.
Jubal Smith said the club hasn't run into any problems but that after last year's ride, the Highway Patrol recommended organizers look into guaranteeing tractor parades are legal.
Nixon has until July 14 to decide whether to sign or veto legislation.
Tractor parades is HB93.