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.