Farm Bureau Works Against Small Family Farm ‘Hostages’

Letter to FFC from one member of the Farm Bureau who operates a family farm.

FFC asked this member if they had any input into the Farm Bureau’s decision to oppose HB 1430; this is their response:



We joined the Farm Bureau when we bought this farm in 2005.

We had no choice, as we could not find anyone else willing to ensure our barns and outbuildings.

I am certain that many of their other members are similar insurance hostages. But aside from that much appreciated service, we have not agreed with a single position they have taken on any political issue. They appear to be primarily geared towards protecting the interests of “Big Ag,” rather than small farmers and their track record in opposing animal welfare and anti-cruelty legislation is deplorable. And we say that as farmers!

Clearly, small farmers support HB 1430, overwhelmingly. So, the Farm Bureau, in a show of benevolent paternalism, is now trying to convince us that their opposition is for our own good. We don’t buy that. We do not see this Bill as somehow a weakening of protections already in place. Nor do we believe that we are too dim to fully understand the Bill’s other implications. We think we understand them just fine, thank you.

Our position is simple.

We know that most small farmers in this state can’t survive on the earnings from their farms without another source of income. The Farm Bureau’s own statistics will tell them that. This was true prior to the recession and it is just as true, now.  Currently, we either need to keep outside jobs, or develop a survival strategy that adds additional value to the agricultural products we are producing.

This Bill simply expands on the range of products by allowing home workers to produce and sell other items, as long as the unrelated items do not exceed 50% of the farm’s gross sales. We don’t see the problem with that.

If wineries want to sell food with their wine, so what? If they want to sell paintings and crafts with their baskets, big deal. God forbid that a farmer should engage in any efforts involving art or literature.

Currently, we raise dairy cattle and sell hay. We don’t think it’s anyone else’s call whether we set up (for example) a small photography studio or made pottery. The fact is, a McDonald’s or a Walmart would not be allowed by-right by this Bill, anyway. So a lot of Farm Bureau’s argument is just “awfullizing.”

We think that small, farm-based enterprises can generate jobs and add income to communities that are presently struggling. This is especially true for farmers in areas outside of Northern Virginia that have been fighting for survival for decades.

Working at home rather than commuting to an outside job is certainly more sustainable. Because no one has studied the actual  benefits of this potential income to communities, it’s hard for us to evaluate how it might offset any adverse impacts to agriculture or agri-tourism. In fact, we know there are small businesses of this nature already out there.

But without that consideration, the net impact of allowing the sale of these additional products on farms can’t be stated with any certainty.

Not by us and not by the Farm Bureau.



11 Responses to Farm Bureau Works Against Small Family Farm ‘Hostages’

  1. Pingback: Fascism, Corporatism, and Big Ag | Marmalade

  2. Little Farm Reply

    March 7, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    What is most concerning is that the Best Management Practices “BMP” are required by small farmers to sign to keep their lands in ag.

    What are they? They are only suggested practices and not actually allowed to be enforced. However, many farmers find themselves targeted for political purposes and then have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend themselves from being the focus of “selective enforcement”.

    Really – focus on big ag and give little farms the chance to get there.

    Farm Bureau – like all insurance companies are overpriced for the limited insurance they are willing to offer.

    • Stuart stein Reply

      March 7, 2016 at 7:54 pm

      Florida Farm Bureau recently dropped all of our coverage after 25 years stating we had livestock on the farm/ranch. The very same animals they covered us for the past 25 years, under their esquire policy. Go figure new guidelines. When we wrote to them their next response stated . Insurance denied as a four foot above ground is not caged in. The very same pool that sat next to the 1/2 acre lake.

  3. Stuart stein Reply

    April 29, 2013 at 8:43 am

    We have a small family farm in Florida and after being with Florida farm bureau,this year they dropped our coverage saying we had horses chickens and turkeys on property.that was considered high risk. We have supplied local kids with chicks for 4h & this was considered a commercial business ,also high risk . Our family farm is 5acres fenced cross faced and electric gate. FFB & the federation has lost it’s way and no longer stands behind family farms.

  4. Pingback: Virginia Farm Bureau Ratings Downgraded - Fauquier Free Citizen

  5. Cameron Jones Reply

    February 6, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Very well stated Country Boy.

    In Fauquier County the BoS passes ordinances as put forth primarily by two special interest groups, the Piedmont Environmental Council who likes to maintain at least 3 “Wise Supervisors” on the Board of five, and Citizens For Fauquier County who wrote the Winery Ordinance for instance.

    These two organizations run Fauquier County through the BoS using the Zoning Ordinance and the Comprehensive plan.

    You have made some very good points, and this is exactly what HB 1430, HB 1839, and HB 2142 (Farm Winery Bill) were designed to fix. All of these are opposed by the same groups because they see their power slipping away.

    Citizens, particularly farmers, need to look objectively at why PEC, CFFC, the BoS, and Farm Bureau are opposing these bills when they SAY they are looking out for small farmers.

  6. countryboy288 Reply

    February 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Wow you guys missed the point that I was trying to make. And that is no one organization can represent all the many different
    farm interest. I have no idea why FB opposed HB1430. They do lobby which make them negotiators. To have affect negotiators do have to pick the fight. I am all for HB1430 and am glad to see it passed the House. I am hopeful it will pass the Senate
    Over the years I’ve had u-pick strawberry’s, retail vegetables stands, on and off farm as well as hay and field crops in several VA counties. In all of the counties there were regulations that restricted what and how I could operate. These regulations were allowed by the state because the County Attorneys and Commonwealth Attorneys from these counties were/are lobbying for the state legislators to give the counties the power to control any and every thing that anybody tries to do. What they are actually doing is giving themselves the power to rule. In every county that I am familiar with, the Board of Supervisors passes any ordnance the Commonwealth Attorney ask for. Fine’s for county ordnances go to county treasure, fines of state law go to Literary Fund until it reach a certain limit and then I have no idea where it goes.

    With all the national anti-farm activates working in this state each segment of agricultural need a federation to speak and lobby for their particular needs. One problem of course is that small farms generate small income. Try opening a vegetable stand or selling veggies off a truck across the road from a chain Supermarket, see how quick the zoning boys show up to shuts you down. One percent of the sales tax from that supermarket go to the county

    .Fifty years ago when I was starting out the county I lived in had 3 supervisors all were full time farmers. Now we have 7, all of them come-here’s from urban areas, all with urban ideas.
    I’m for less regulation, but Richmond Sunlight reports as of this morning 1,591 bills have been filed in the state House.
    The VA Commissioner of Agriculture’s brother has a agritourism operation on the family farm. I haven’t heard anything from him about HB1430.


    February 5, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Virginia Farm Bureau (VFB) is a Soviet political machine that cares not for the small family farmer. VFB is a giant ugly three headed wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    @ “Countrybumpkinboy” – Your statement “Opening a farm to retail customers does open a owner/insurance to more risk.” is the biggest load of manure I have heard yet! Really?! Why does Farm Bureau endorse and support Virginia’s winery laws that permit wineries (turning grapes in to alcohol agritourism)selling everything from tshirts to books made in China at winery farms????? Oh and guess what? VFB insures these wineries too!

    WE the people are SICK of VFB pathetic excuses for not supporting HB1430! These ridiculous excuses have NO TEETH and are an insult to all Virginians.

    BOYCOTT FARM BUREAU! Don’t support or endorse any politican or entity that does not support property rights or the small Virginia farmer. Besides you can get MUCH BETTER and cheaper insurance from “FAMILY FARM INSURANCE” instead. Like their name says – they actually care about the FAMILY FARM.

    Farm Bureau should be renamed “Communist Anti-Farm Bureau”

  8. Farm Bureau Hostage Reply

    February 5, 2013 at 11:40 am

    @ Countryboy – HOGWASH!

  9. countryboy288 Reply

    February 5, 2013 at 6:31 am

    I think the Farm Bureau does a fairly good job watching out for farmers/owners in general. With so many different ventures in agriculture its hard to serve them all every time. VA lawmakers do look to them for guidance on farm issues. Like all lobbyist sometime they have to give something to get at least part of what they want. At any rate they have become the spokesman for agriculture in VA. There are several anti-farm activists groups lobbing hard to put undo restriction on all farm operation some with the goal to outlaw animal raising all together. Farm Bureau writes about 40% of farmowners insurance in VA so it’s not likely they don’t take that in account on the bills/laws that they support. Opening a farm to retail customers does open a owner/insurance to more risk. To FB credit they do offer coverage to most of these operations where most insurance company’s don’t. Sad as it is small business of all kinds have little support of VA lawmakers.

  10. Mary Anderson Reply

    February 3, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Indeed. The author of this article is correct and these points are forgotten in the media presumably because Farm Bureau and others do not want them to be public. Specifically (1)the argument of Walmarts popping up on small family farms is simply absurd because existing zoning and other laws exist to prevent that from happening and Warlmarts are not permitted by-right. (2) The issue of “art” or “crafts” is just as crazy since the small family farmer has been selling crafts since the begining of time.

    It is baffling and difficult to understand why the wineries and farms are being so heavily restricted and burdened. Particularly since these farming practices are done all over Virginia and the country.

    Since Farm Bureau (I have nothing against FB) only represents Big Agribusiness and GMOs, why isn’t there a “Small Family Farm Bureau”?

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