A Virginia Farm Freedom bill is on a collision course with government officials who are shrinking agricultural lands and cracking down on small producers, Watchdog.org reports.
Since 1960, the number of acres classified as farmland has eroded by half, to 7.9 million acres. That worries state Delegate Brenda Pogge.
“A lot of localities are doing away with agricultural zoning,” the Norge Republican told Watchdog.org in an interview.
By law, Virginia’s 95 counties must review their land-use plans every five years – and that exercise has created more residential and “mixed-use” designations that plow under farmland.
“Comprehensive plans are killers,” Pogge said.
Recognizing the problem, state officials established an Office of Farmland Preservation. To date, OFP has spent $1.2 million to protect 1,007 acres of farm and forestland.
That’s merely dust in the wind, however.
Just one central Virginia county, Orange, is currently considering rezoning to put 2,400 acres of prime farmland in play for various forms of “economic development” and suburban sprawl.
“That will clog up Route 20 with traffic lights and traffic,” grumps Dan Holmes, an Orange resident and local leader of the Piedmont Environmental Council.
Meantime, other counties have enacted onerous ordinances making it harder for farmers to sell home-grown produce on their own property.
Fauquier County is embroiled in a court battle after trying to impose thousands of dollars in fines on one small farmer. The bureaucratic overreach is similar to confrontations portrayed in the gut-wrenching 2011 documentary, “Farmageddon.”
Saying Virginia must be more friendly to its small farmers, Pogge plans to introduce a 21-word Farm Freedom act. It declares:
“Farmers shall have the right to process and sell what they produced on their own land without licensure or inspection.”
“Working farms will be more attractive and the next generation can afford to stay on the land,” Pogge explains. “This is a win-win for farmers who have been so hard hit.”