Many of you have heard through the media or seen through e-mails information on HB1430 (Lingamfelter) which amends the Right to Farm Act.
Virginia Farm Bureau is opposed to HB1430 based on policy voted on by our farmer members through our grassroots process. While the bill may seem appealing in sound bytes, it drastically expands the Right-to-Farm beyond its original purpose of protecting bona fide agricultural operations. The Right-to-Farm Act is an agreement between local governments and the agricultural community; by expanding these protections without buy-in from all stakeholders, it increases the chances of losing the current protections that the Code section provides.
The provisions of HB1430 would allow:
-art, literature, artifacts, and any other items to be deemed part of an agricultural operation if they make up 50% or less of the gross sales. This opens the Right to Farm act to allow stores, restaurants, museums, and other buildings to be built by-right on agricultural land;
-the bill would undermine current zoning laws in localities where the county government has passed ordinances to promote agriculture and agritourism in the locality;
-citizen suits to be brought against county officials or employees where they would be held personally liable for enforcement of county ordinances; and,
-expand the Right to Farm beyond the intent of bona fide production of agricultural products. This is the intent of the agreement between the agriculture community and the localities to ensure that true agricultural production practices not be hindered by the locality. Since HB1430 allows essentially anything to be built on agriculturally zoned land, it would increase the chances of losing the protections we already have with the Right to Farm in the future.
We are working with the patron and representatives of local government to see if there is some common ground that can be found on language to amend this specific Code section. If not, we are committed to working throughout the year with all stakeholders involved to find compromise language that protects legitimate production agriculture and value-added operations that may occur on agriculturally-zoned land.