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Farmers win property-rights battle, and dig for more

Martha Boneta, smiling in foreground, led a legislative fight to secure land-use rights for small farmers who are battling local zoning regulations in Virginia.
Courtesy photo

Martha Boneta, a big-spirited small farmer, calls newly enacted land-use legislation a “landmark event” that will boost agricultural entrepreneurs in Virginia.

“No Virginian should be forced to lose everything when they fight city hall,” said Boneta, who is locked in a costly legal battle with Fauquier County officials over use of her farmland.

State lawmakers sided with Boneta this year, giving farmers protection from overreaching bureaucrats.

Bills by state Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Montross, and state Delegate Bobby Orrock, R-Thornburg, shield “agricultural operations from local regulation” and restrict government’s ability to require “special-use permits” for farm activities.

“Now farmers can farm without fear or fees,” Boneta told Watchdog.org in an interview. “It gives hope to farmers and landholders in the fight for property rights.”

Collectively dubbed the “Boneta Bill,” Senate Bill 51 and House Bill 268 easily cleared the General Assembly and await Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s consideration.

“In all my years running to Richmond for relief of some injustice, I’ve never seen a piece of legislation receive the traction and broad support,” said Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farm in rural Swoope, Va.

“To have Virginia agribusiness, the Farm Bureau and VICFA (Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association), to name a few, on the same side is truly a feat for the record books.”

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