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February 6, 2013

“Boneta Bill” easily passes Va. House, heads to Senate

Video/Fauquier Pitchfork
Supervisor Lee Sherbeyn testifies against HB 1430 before House subcommittee.
Martha Boneta has filed a lawsuit against Fauquier County because of the zoning dispute related to her farm market at Paris.
Despite opposition from Fauquier and other farming counties, the Virginia House of Delegates this week overwhelming passed the “Boneta Bill” to expand the state’s “Right to Farm Act.”

Introduced by Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R-31st/Woodbridge), who represents the New Baltimore area of Fauquier, HB 1430 passed the House, 77-22, Monday morning.

The two other delegates representing parts of Fauquier — Michael Webert (R-18th/Marshall) and Mark Cole (R-88th/Spotsylvania) — also voted in favor of the bill.

Of the 22 no votes, only one came from a Republican, Del. Randy Minchew of Leesburg.

The proposed legislation moves to the Senate.

The bill seeks to expand the definition of agricultural operations to include the sale of products to consumers and businesses. It would prevent counties from classifying activities as non-agricultural without providing sufficient proof.

“If you’re farming, you’re farming. And if someone comes along and says you are not farming, the burden is on them to prove that you are not farming,” Del. Lingamfelter said.

HB 1430 has a re-enactment clause, meaning it would not take effect unless the 2014 General Assembly also passes the legislation.

The bill draws its name from Martha Boneta, a Paris (Va.) farmer. Last year, she got into a dispute with Fauquier County officials because she was selling handicrafts and holding events at her farm without proper permits. Ms. Boneta’s supporters demonstrated with pitchforks – first in Fauquier County and last week at the state Capitol – to protest what they see as government interference in farmers’ activities.

The Boneta Bill has put Del. Lingamfelter at odds with the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors, with four of five members also Republicans.

Supervisors Lee Sherbeyn (R-Cedar Run District) and Holder Trumbo (R-Marshall District) have testified against the bill in committee hearings.

Boards of supervisors in Clarke, Rockingham and Shenandoah counties also have adopted resolutions opposing the bill. Additionally, the Virginia Farm Bureau opposes it.

The General Assembly session will end Saturday, Feb. 23.
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