2014 VFBF Critical Legislative Issue #3: On-Farm Activities

Earlier this month, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation announced its critical legislative issues for 2014. These are the issues Governmental Relations staff believe will be at the forefront during the next year’s General Assembly.  These issues are also discussed at Senatorial District meetings, regional legislative briefings for legislators held across the state during November and December. Each critical issue will be highlighted on Plows and Politics every day this week. If you are a producer member and would like to attend your region’s Senatorial District Meeting, please contact your Field Services Director for dates and locations.
Virginia Farm Bureau is urging legislators to:
  • Support compromise legislation to set a baseline for the regulation of on-farm activities on agricultural operations

Why is “On-Farm Activities” a critical issue for VFBF?
In the 2013 General Assembly, legislation was defeated that would have expanded the Right-to-Farm Act to include a broad range of on-farm activities.  The bill was introduced as a result of a dispute between a landowner and local government officials in Fauquier County.  Farm Bureau expressed concerns of adding the proposed language (HB1430) to this specific Code section as it is intended to protect production agriculture from being deemed a nuisance by localities. 
Wasn’t there a Working Group held in the summer of 2013 to discuss these issues?

Yes.  As a result of these discussions, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) convened the On-Farm Activities Working Group (OFAWG) in 2013 comprised of private citizens, local government representatives and agricultural stakeholder groups, including Virginia Farm Bureau.  While this group had no authority to change current policy or regulations, the group did convene with the stated purpose of facilitating discussions and, if possible, formulating legislative recommendations for consideration by the 2014 Virginia General Assembly.  This final report documents the efforts of the On-Farm Activities Working Group, and is being provided to members of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources.   It is available online.  Following the final meeting of the OFAWG, a consensus was reached among the majority of the participants to present a compromise bill in the 2014 General Assembly.  This compromise “On-Farm Activities” bill is being promoted by Farm Bureau at the 2013 Senatorial District meetings between our producer members and legislators.
What will this legislation do?
This compromise legislation would add a new part to the appropriate local government Code section (§15.2) allowing agritourism activities at an agricultural operation to be permitted unless there is a substantial impact on the health, safety or welfare of the public.  The legislation would further allow the sale of agricultural or silvicultural products and the preparation and sale of food products, as long as those food products currently comply with state law.  It would also allow the sale of agricultural-related items incidental to the agricultural operation, similar to what farm wineries have the ability to do now.  This brings the rest of the industry up to par with this particular segment.
Our hope is that the 2014 General Assembly will support the compromise language developed by the On-Farm Activities Working Group.  If you have any further questions, e-mail Trey Davis, VFBF Assistant Director of Governmental Relations, at trey.davis@vafb.com

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