Right to sell the fruits of her agricultural labor without corruption and abuse in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave
The Boneta Bill in Virginia to Protect the Right to Farm
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Martha Boneta never dreamed that she would be at the center of a battle in Virginia that will have implications for every small farmer in America. I met her last year and wrote two articles about her battle with the board of supervisors in Fauquier County. I have featured Martha in my book, “U.N. Agenda 21: Environmental Piracy.”
Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Woodbridge) introduced HB 1430, the Boneta Bill, an amendment to the Right to Farm Act of July 1, 1981. HB 1430 will expand the definition of agricultural operations to include commerce of farm-to-business and farm-to-consumer sales, including art, literature, artifacts, furniture, food, beverage, and other items incidental to agricultural operations. Items which “constitute less than a majority amount of production or sales, or less than a majority of annual revenues from such sales, are defined as part of the agricultural operation.
“The bill gives persons engaged in agricultural operations a cause of action against the county or any official or employee of the county for violations of the Right to Farm Act.” Two provisions of HB 1430 are retroactive to the Right to Farm Act of 1981:
- expansion of the definition of agricultural operation
- any ordinance directed at persons, property, or activity on land that is zoned agricultural or silvicultural that seeks to restrict free speech or the right to assembly, among other rights, is null and void
The Boneta Bill will be heard on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 5 p.m. by the Virginia House Agricultural Committee at the Virginia State Capitol – “The Pitchfork Protest Comes to Richmond.”
The original pitchfork protest took place in August 2012 in Warrenton in response to a Fauquier County supervisor threatening Martha Boneta, the owner of Liberty Farms in the village of Paris in northern Virginia, with $5,000 fines for selling produce and crafts and hosting unlicensed events such as a pumpkin carving and a birthday party for her best friend’s daughter and eight ten-year old girls.
Boneta was told that “she did not have the proper event permits for the party and other events, including wine tastings, craft workshops, and pumpkin carving.” Fines were also threatened for produce and products not grown or made on her 70-acre farm although she had a special “retail farm shop” license issued to her in 2011. Martha planned to sell handspun yarns, birdhouses, fresh vegetables, eggs, and herbs. But Fauquier County Board of Supervisors changed “farm sales” classification in 2011 to require a special permit for activities that were previously included under her license.
Martha paid $500 to appeal the unjust administrative charges and threats. The country zoning administrator told Martha at the hearing that she was “out of line” for appealing these charges.
Martha’s farm store that was opened just seven hours a week is now closed. She fears the “uncertain, unlawful, and unscrupulous actions of the county.”
When citizens fear their local governments, there is no freedom. The ruling attitude of the elected boards is that the “King can do no wrong.” When elected officials claim “sovereign immunity” and no longer serve the citizens’ interests but their own, there is tyranny and oppression.
According to Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, in November 2012, 74 percent of Virginians voted to amend the Constitution of Virginia in order to strengthen property rights. “Let’s make sure that Fauquier County officials and all government employees remember that they work for us. Virginians will not tolerate overreaching and overregulating by any layer of government.”
The Virginia Association of Counties opposes the Boneta Bill, developing talking points against HB 1430. Some of the counties support the mandates of U.N. Agenda 21 and prefer “penny-loafer farming,” preserving thousands of acres of green grass with a few riding horses, no real agriculture to spoil the well-manicured “wilderness.”
The Virginia Association of Counties’ talking points are:
- HB 1430 weakens the authority of counties to plan and regulate land use (this is false; the bill protects traditional, centuries-old forms of farming commerce and constitutional rights on farm lands)
- HB 1430 creates a more permissive zoning scheme in agricultural areas that may lead to land use conflicts with neighboring properties (false; protecting rights does not obstruct agricultural zoning; counties are still free to prohibit trespasses by farmers on their neighbors’ rights of enjoyment)
- HB 1430 threatens “sovereign immunity” of county officials; they won’t be able to perform their duties for fear of penalties (false; HB 1430 is only limited to violations of the Virginia Right to Farm Act; counties carry litigation insurance against frivolous lawsuits when their officials make mistakes in good faith; if officials are fearful of losing their “sovereign immunity,” they should ask Martha what their overreaching ordinance did to her family’s life and livelihood)
Counties and officials who support the Boneta Bill respect and follow the law and do not overreach in their duties as elected representatives of the people. The HB 1430 “will ensure that government at all levels respects the heritage and traditions of farming – and the rights of property owners to enjoy their land in the way that they see fit.” (Del. Scott Lingamfelter’s letter to constituents, January 8, 2013)
Unfortunately, there are those who developed and passed onerous regulations by “consensus,” without the knowledge or approval of a local majority. These are “visioning committee” officials who were hand-picked to promote and pass U.N. Agenda 21 goals without the people’s knowledge that the boards’ green growth, smart growth, sustainable, and save the planet plans were limiting the use and ownership of private property, and, in some cases, leading to confiscation of property and return to wilderness.
Sevil Kalayci wrote an impassionate letter to her representative. “Sunday morning the local news was talking about local farms in Maryland and how much [urbanites] enjoyed getting produce from their local farms. I guess they have no idea small farms will be disappearing because of the goals of U.N. Agenda 21. The ultimate goal is to completely eliminate all small farms around the country. A few huge companies like Monsanto will direct all the farms in the country. Eventually all backyard gardens will be illegal.”
Alice Butler Short was listening to John Kerry deliver a speech on the Hill and heard him make the analogy that “foreign policy is economic policy.” He said, “A fruit vendor in Tunisia who ignited the Arab Awakening wanted dignity and respect. He wanted to sell his fruit without corruption and abuse. That is what led him to self-immolate.”
Don’t Martha and millions of small farmers like her deserve the same right to sell the fruits of her agricultural labor without corruption and abuse in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?