The Boneta Bill was considered for the first time at the Virginia General Assembly in a January 28 Agricultural Subcommittee hearing before an overflow crowd. The bill, H.B. 1430, was introduced by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter.
The Boneta Bill was designed to clarify that the Virginia Right to Farm Act protects commerce, protects constitutional rights, and provides remedies for when counties violate the Act.
The Ag Subcommittee decided to adopt an amendment in the nature of a substitute bill. The substitute bill has some good provisions such as clarifying that the right to farm includes commerce. It also has some provisions that leave farmers at the mercy of bureaucrats who do not follow the law.
The substitute bill to H.B. 1430 that was introduced by the Ag Subcommittee creates a “rebuttable presumption that a farm is presumed in compliance with local zoning ordinances.”
The Ag Subcommittee, however, decided to strike language from the substitute bill that expressly provided constitutional and evidentiary protections for farmers. The language that was struck read as follows:
“The rebuttable presumption shall not be overcome by hearsay evidence or without an onsite inspection performed in compliance with the strictest standards under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which requires no warrants shall issue without probable cause supported by oath and affirmation.”
The Ag Subcommittee further struck:
“A locality that violates this chapter shall be liable to the agricultural operation for (1) the amount of fines, if any, that the locality sought to impose on the [farm] operation in defending against the action of the locality or seeking to enforce the provisions of the chapter. A local ordinance that violates any provision of this chapter or any right protected under the Constitution of Virginia or the Constitution of the United States is void.”
Besides showing its displeasure with rules of evidence and constitutional protections for farmers, the Ag Subcommittee also rejected protections for farm art and literature.