Virginia Farm Rights Protection Act
Creating New Chapter 3.2 to Title 3.2, AGRICULTURE, ANIMAL CARE, AND FOOD.
§ 3.2-310. Definitions.
As used in this chapter, “Farm Commerce” means any operation devoted to the bona fide husbandry, production and commerce of crops, or farm animals or fowl, or their fiber or feathers; things grown agriculturally from the earth and harvested such as fruits and vegetables of all kinds, herbs, nuts, edible fungi, tobacco, nursery, floral products, and seeds; meat, dairy, and poultry products; the production and harvest of products from silviculture activity; and their byproducts or value-added products. “Farm Commerce” shall be construed broadly to include the commerce of farm-to-business and farm-to-consumer sales. “Farm Commerce” shall include equine and other farm animal activities, husbandry-related events, and farm-related events. For purposes of this chapter, the creation, use, and commerce of items such as art, crafts, pottery, literature, artifacts, furniture, food, beverages, natural oils and soap, honey, spun fiber, woven items, handmade jewelry, and other items that are traditional to Farm Commerce, reflect its culture, or are beneficial to the health, safety and welfare of farmers, their families, guests and property, are “Farm Commerce.” On-farm services that are traditional to farms, agriculture and husbandry are “Farm Commerce.” For purposes of this chapter, “Farm Commerce” shall not include any activity or the sale of any item prohibited by the Code of Virginia, except that no cap or limitation on revenues from Farm Commerce shall apply. Items covered by this chapter grown or raised at the farm or on the farmer’s property, even if preserved, prepared, processed, canned, jarred, wrapped or packaged off-farm, are “Farm Commerce.” There shall be a rebuttable presumption that on-farm preparation, preserving, processing, canning, jarring, wrapping or packaging of items covered by this chapter are “Farm Commerce,” not industrial or manufacturing.
§ 3.2-311. Farm Commerce rights; restrictive ordinances.
A. Farm Commerce shall be by right, and no county or locality shall adopt any ordinance that requires that a special exception or special use permit be obtained for any Farm Commerce activity in an area that is zoned as an agricultural district or classification.
B. No county or locality shall enact zoning ordinances that would unreasonably restrict or regulate Farm Commerce in an agricultural district or classification unless such restrictions bear a direct and clearly articulated relationship to the health, safety, and general welfare of its citizens. The burden shall be on the county or locality to articulate and establish the direct relationship to the health, safety and welfare of its citizens.
C. No local ordinance regulating noise arising from activities and events at farms shall be more restrictive than that in the general noise ordinance.
D. Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit any county or locality from requiring compliance with Title 54.1 for Professions and Occupations.
§ 3.2-312. Constitutional rights.
A. Any ordinance of a county or locality directed at persons, property or activities protected under this chapter that violates or unreasonably restricts the free exercise of rights guaranteed by the Virginia or United States Constitutions, shall be null and void; and any enforcement action of a county or locality against persons, property or activities that violates or unreasonably restricts such rights shall be deemed a violation of this chapter. The burden of establishing the constitutionality of any ordinance or enforcement action, and the reasonableness thereof, shall be on the county or locality.
B. For persons, property and activities protected by this chapter, (i) no county or locality may institute an administrative or other legal action except upon oath and affirmation of at least one individual; (ii) any administrative or other legal proceeding to enforce a county or local ordinance shall commence only with due process of law, and opportunity to confront witnesses; (iii) any investigations shall comply with the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution; and (iv) no county or locality may assess a fee for any administrative hearing or adjudication of first impression or on appeal in any administrative proceeding.
Sec. 3.2-313. Remedies.
A. Any county or locality that violates this chapter shall be liable to aggrieved persons in amounts equal to the fines and/or penalties that the county seeks to impose on such aggrieved persons, plus actual damages and attorneys fees.
B. Any county or locality that willfully violates this chapter, or whose interpretation or enforcement of ordinances willfully operates in violation of this chapter, shall be liable to the aggrieved person for special treble damages, plus attorneys fees.
C. Any official or employee of a county or locality who willfully violates this chapter, or whose interpretation or enforcement of duties willfully operates contrary to this chapter, shall be personally liable to aggrieved persons in the amount equal to the fines and/or penalties that such county official or employee seeks to impose on such aggrieved persons, plus actual damages and attorneys fees.
D. The Attorney General shall establish a website where persons, including employees of counties or localities, may report violations of this chapter.
E. No county or locality may take disciplinary actions against any employee for, or as a result of, reporting violations of this chapter. Any county or locality that violates of this subsection shall pay the aggrieved person’s damages, including attorneys fees.
F. The Attorney General of Virginia (i) shall have authority to institute legal proceedings in the courts of the respective county or locality, and (ii) may intervene in any proceeding, to enforce this chapter against any county or locality.
Sec. 3.2-314. Effective date.
This chapter shall become effective July 1, 2014.