We respectfully present the Virginia Farm Rights Protection Act to the On-Farm Activities Working Group, and the Virginia general public.
The Act protects farm commerce and farmers’ and consumers’ rights. It also does something special: It helps protect farm culture and farm land.
It does not impose an agricultural zoning ordinance on counties, leaving localities their independence. But it does protect farmers’ rights and culture from abusive county actions. Virginia farm culture is just as important as farm commerce to many people.
It does not amend the Right to Farm Act, but instead creates a new Chapter 3.2 to Title 3.2, AGRICULTURE, ANIMAL CARE, AND FOOD.
It uses key language taken expressly from the Right to Farm Act and the Virginia winery statute, but appropriately addresses the commercial and cultural diversity of farmers.
It protects the authority of counties to issue ordinances for the health, safety and welfare of citizens, and will help ensure that they are appropriate and articulated to help prevent improper or unlawful enforcement against farmers and the community. This provides clarity, and will help prevent disputes and lawsuits.
It protects the authority of counties to regulate noise (no Woodstock concerts).
It includes whistleblower protections for county employees.
It even protects county BPOL licenses.
It will help prohibit counties from engaging in bias for some farmers, and prejudice against others. No crony farming.
It spends no taxpayer money, provides no government handouts, and yet will create jobs, improve the economic health of farmers, give better choices to consumers, and truly help preserve Virginia farm land.
It does not authorize any farmer to engage in any activity prohibited by Virginia law, yet protects their freedoms, commerce and culture.
Unlike the toothless Right to Farm Act and winery ordinance, farmers will have remedies to ensure that counties don’t cheat. Generally, when farmers violate the law, there are consequences. This Act provides fair and reasonable consequence for counties that violate the law. The Act also gives the Attorney General authority to intervene when laws are broken.
Walmart could not use this law to build a store. It won’t create bottling or canning plants in place of farms. But it does properly ensure that farmers can engage in farm commerce and farm culture.
I ask that the On-Farm Activities Working Group move swiftly to adopt the Virginia Farm Rights Protection Act as its top recommendation to the 2014 General Assembly.