The overall General Assembly vote was 81 to 33 in favor of the Boneta Bill (77 to 22 in the House), but 11 to 4 against it in one Senate committee, which was enough to end its chances of passage in this year’s legislative session in Richmond.
Remember, the eminent domain amendment that passed with approval of nearly 75 percent of Virginia voters in 2012 took five years to get through the General Assembly before it was added to the ballot.
The popularity of the Boneta Bill, which would clarify that the Virginia Right to Farm Act includes commerce, is intense among the people. It has galvanized supporters across political parties and grassroots causes.
H.B. 1430 (the Boneta Bill) was written to amend the Virginia Right to Farm Act. That Act as written prevents private nuisance lawsuits against farms for their loud machinery and farm odors. It was flawed from the outset by protecting “noise and stink,” but not expressly protecting the commerce of farming that helps actually preserve farmlands, farm families and farm communities.
That the Right to Farm Act does not expressly protect the commerce rights of small farmers does not mean that they are not protected under common law or other Virginia statutes. Indeed, nobody can credibly deny that farmers may not sell what they produce.
The Boneta Bill, as was explained today, would have protected farmers from local governments’ giving some farmers freedom to sell produce and even products from out of the country, but charging others with violations of law for those very same activities. In other words, the Boneta Bill would protect against ‘crony farming,’ which is rampant in Fauquier County.
Boneta Bill supporters immediately responded to today’s vote with a positive resolve. The Boneta Bill as written included express protection of commerce, protection of constitutional rights of farmers and their guests, and remedies against county and county officials who violate the Right to Farm Act.
Those three provisions would seem to be more popular than even the eminent domain amendment. Who doesn’t believe that farming rights include commerce, or that Fauquier County should not pay consequences when it violates the law? Hmm?
The bill will be re-introduced next year, and maybe even with stronger provisions. In the mean time, its grassroots supporters vow to educate more of the public about lawbreaking counties and bureaucrats, how large farms get large taxpayer subsidies at the expense of commerce rights of small farmers who pay sales taxes on their sales, and why small farmers need protections of their constitutional rights.
Opponents of the bill, such as Farm Bureau and others, will face a full year of being exposed as being against the rights of small farmers. Buy fresh, buy local is . . . commerce.
Small farmers are already beginning to promote other insurance companies to replace Farm Bureau as more small farmers leave that insurance company. In this year’s brief legislative saga, organizations claiming to represent small farmers were exposed as hypocrites. 2013 will not be kind to them.
The Boneta Bill shook the Richmond establishment. Indeed, farmers in other states are already clamoring for their own Boneta Bills.
A movement has been born.