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Virginia law standardizes farmer rights throughout the state

HB 261 took effect in Virginia on July 1 after being signed into law by Governor Terry McAuliffe. The bill provides protection from regulation for farmers who conduct certain types of operations on their farms. It was created after the controversy that stemmed from a ruling in 2012 by the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors that forced a farmer to stop selling produce that she grew on her own land.

In response to the ban, the farmer decided to donate her produce to make sure that it didn't go to waste. The woman was also required to stop advertising pumpkin carvings on her property and was threatened with a $15,000 per day fine due to a birthday party that she hosted without a permit. Outraged by this decision, an activist group staged a peaceful protest to show support for her.

In 2013, legislation aimed at strengthening the Virginia Right to Farm Act passed in the House but was killed in the Senate. In 2014, the bill that came to be known as the "Boneta Bill" after the farmer that inspired the legislation was passed. The bill states that activities related to farming can be conducted on farmland as long as they do not harm the public. It is backed by the Virginia Farm Bureau and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support when it was voted on for the second time.

Typically, local ordinances and rules must be followed by businesses. Without a permit, it may be possible for a business to be fined, which could cause a small business to shut down completely. Working with an attorney may be able to help businesses who are trying to win the right to use their land in a manner consistent with how other companies in that industry would operate.

Source: YourGV.com, "New law protects rights of farmers", Ashley Hodge, July 07, 2014

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