H.B. 1430 – Guaranteeing Individual Liberty and Property Rights for Farmers
Legislation protecting the property rights and individual liberties of farmers will be the subject of a press conference January 8 at 11 a.m. in House Room 1 of Richmond’s historic Virginia State Capitol.
H.B. 1430 was written in response to overzealous enforcement actions by Fauquier County against farmer Martha Boneta for selling her farm produce, advertising pumpkin carvings, and holding a private birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls. Those unconscionable actions against Martha the farmer resulted in the “Pitchfork Protest” in August that gained national attention.
H.B. 1430, the Boneta Bill, is sponsored by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter and amends Virginia’s Right to Farm Act.
Virginia’s Right to Farm Act (VRFA) was intended to protect the rights of Virginians to engage in something that is fundamental to a way of life in the Commonwealth, and indeed America: farming.
Despite the VRFA, county ordinances and actions of county officials have resulted in restricting the farming lifestyle and defining down what it means to be a farmer. Martha Boneta’s property is zoned agriculture, and she even had a business license for her quaint farm store called Paris Barns at Liberty Farm. Fauquier County nevertheless fined Martha for farming. Fauquier County’s ordinances and the actions of the county zoning administrator and board of zoning appeals constitute trespasses on the rights of all farmers.
H.B. 1430 amends the VRFA by clarifying that farming is not merely growing crops or raising livestock. Farming is more than that. It is a lifestyle of one’s own “pursuit of happiness.” It is commerce that sustains individuals, families and even communities. It is the subject of great American literature, art, artifacts and more. It is, like all great American endeavors, what each individual chooses to make of it through his or her own vision, ingenuity, capital, time and labor.
Farming is not what government officials choose to dictate to free citizens. H.B. 1430 reflects these principles by amending the definition section of the Right to Farm Act to protect the rights of farmers to engage in commerce within their communities, to include the byproducts of farm produce (goats milk soap, for example), and to include the sale of items incidental to farming such as art, literature, artifacts and more. These are consistent with the traditional, self-sufficient farm life, and are good for the economy.
The bill also expressly provides that county ordinances are void if they violate constitutionally protected rights on agricultural property. Such rights include freedom of speech, assembly, the press, religion and more.
Lastly, too often we see government officials abusing the power of their offices by bullying citizens through incorrect and harmful interpretations of laws. H.B. 1430 adds teeth to the VRFA and tempers overzealous counties and county officials by making them subject to the same fines and penalties that they might seek to unlawfully impose on farmer-citizens.
Virginia farmers set forth some of most important principles about liberty for all Americans. Perhaps the most important American innovation was that liberty is best preserved by a supreme, paramount law governing government itself – our Constitution with its Bill of Rights. H.B. 1430 strengthens the Virginia Right to Farm Act against counties and county officials who violate the law by trespassing on the property rights and the individual liberties of farmers.
You can read H.B. 1430 here: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?131+ful+HB1430
You can read Delegate Lingamfelter’s press release here: