Legislation to curtail frivolous and excessive lawsuits against farmers and other agricultural interests cleared an important hurdle on Wednesday by advancing in both Houses.
HB987, introduced by Majority Leader Delegate C. Todd Gilbert (R-Mount Jackson) and Del. Roz Tyler (D-Jarratt) passed unanimously in the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee in the Virginia House of Delegates. An identical bill, SB 567, was also introduced in the Virginia State Senate by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) and Senator Richard Stuart (R-Stafford). It passed unanimously on the Senate floor.
Both bills protect farmers from expensive and unreasonable nuisance litigation. Currently, Virginia’s “Right to Farm Act” contains several loopholes that can be exploited to penalize responsible farming operations for merely technical violations. Unscrupulous attorneys in other states have already taken advantage of such loopholes to unfairly target farmers, with devastating financial results.
“Virginia’s farmers are hardworking people who are great stewards of our land,” said Delegate Gilbert. “We should make every effort to protect them from frivolous lawsuits that could bankrupt their families and do untold damage to our rural way of life.”
“Virginia Farm Bureau is grateful for the bipartisan support for protecting countless family farms throughout Virginia,” said Martha Moore, Virginia Farm Bureau’s Vice President of Governmental Relations.
“At $91 billion annually, agriculture and forestry is Virginia’s largest industry,” said Katie Frazier, President of the Virginia Agribusiness Council. “This legislation is essential to ensuring the continued well-being of this crucial sector of our economy.”