Virginia House passes ‘Boneta’ bill
The House of Delegates voted 77-22 Tuesday to expand the Right to Farm act so farmers will be able to sell products and advertise services from their farms without a permit from their local government.
The “Boneta” bill, as the measure is known, was named after Fauquier County farmer Martha Boneta. Boneta pushed for the legislation after she was threatened with thousands of dollars in fines for selling items and advertising her farm without a permit.
Specifically, the bill, HB1430 will expand the definition of agricultural operations to include “the commerce of farm-to-business and farm-to-consumer sales,” allowing farmers to sell non-food, farm-produced items like soap and furniture as long as they comprise less than 50 percent of the total farm revenue.
“There is something so powerfully and fundamentally Virginian about farming,” Boneta said at a press conference at the Capitol in January. “This bill is about making sure these little farming practices have some minimal baseline protection that’s common to all farms in Virginia.”
Del. Ken Plum, R-Reston, however, voted against the bill, which was sponsored by Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge.
“[Plum] is supportive of the idea and the concern that [Boneta] was treated unfairly,” said Kristy Pullen, his legislative aide. “There are just some provisions in the bill itself that go too far in eliminating the ability of the jurisdiction to have some reasonable controls over the farming in the area.”
Plum received several emails from constituents urging him to oppose the bill, including one from David Wilson, who said he could “think of no rational reason to adopt [it].”
“The potential side effects are horrendous,” he wrote. “Precedent suggests that ‘agricultural operations’ can easily morph into factories, rendering plants, roadside stores and circuses without potential regulation “
The Virginia Farm Bureau and the Virginia Agribusiness Council also spoke against the bill.
Legislation for the “Boneta” bill is pending in the Senate. The provisions of the bill will not go into effect unless reenacted by the 2014 session of the General Assembly.