Good News for the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia! A state delegate is proposing legislation to address local government abuses of power with respect to small farms and private property rights.
Joel Salatin will be among those attending a news conference today to discuss the legislation, named the ‘Boneta Bill’, after Martha Boneta who suffered from abuse at the hands of county officials.
For Immediate Release:
January 2nd, 2013
Delegate Scott Lingamfelter Introduces “The Boneta Bill” In Response To Property Rights Infringements By Government
– Legislation will address actions by local government to fine farmer for hosting birthday party and selling produce and crafts on private property-
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WOODBRIDGE – Today, Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Prince William and Fauquier) announced that he will be holding a press conference on Tuesday, January 8th at 11AM in House Room 1 located in the Virginia State Capitol, 1000 Bank Street, Richmond, Virginia, to discuss his introduction of House Bill 1430, also known as “The Boneta Bill”.
The press conference will feature several high profile property rights advocates including constitutional lawyer and co-author of The Law That Governs Government, Mark Fitzgibbons and Virginia farmer and lecturer Joel Salatin, whose many books include Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front. “Our farm has been featured in numerous documentaries like FOOD INC., New York Times bestsellers like Omnivore’s Dilemma, and countless media from ABC News to National Geographic, but what most people don’t know is that if state and local food and farm regulators had their way, we would not exist,” said Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farm.
“The Boneta Bill” is named after Martha Boneta, a local farmer in Fauquier County who has been in a legal dispute with the county as a result of several zoning ordinances and permits imposed by local government officials. Martha’s dispute and the “Pitchfork Protest” in her support in August were the focus of national press coverage and grassroots support. In Lingamfelter’s estimate, the actions taken by her locality violate fundamental rights and unfairly restrict her property rights.
Lingamfelter commented, “Property rights are one of the most fundamental rights in a free society. In the United States, we the people are the sovereign. We the people have the right to farm just as our Founders envisioned with what they called the pursuit of happiness. Since being elected to the House of Delegates in 2001, I have been a steadfast advocate for the protection of property rights in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Martha Boneta’s rights have been wrongly challenged. I am bringing legislation in the 2013 Session of the General Assembly to improve the Right to Farm Act here in Virginia so small farmers like Martha will enjoy fully their property rights. It’s not about demonizing anyone in this controversy. It’s about standing by property rights and our Founder’s vision.”
Martha Boneta owns “Paris Barns”, a small historic working farm in Fauquier County, Virginia that produces farm fresh seasonal vegetables, fresh and dried herbs, honey bee products, a variety of eggs, hand-made soaps, and wool crafts made from alpaca, llama, and sheep. All of which are produced on Martha’s farm by volunteer help. Visitors to Martha’s farm are given the opportunity to actively participate in the historic tradition of farming. Unfortunately, Martha has had to close down her doors and put a disclaimer on her website that visitors are no longer welcome and that they are no longer able to purchase her farm fresh produce or handmade crafts.
What her website does not say is that the closure of her farm is due to local government actions that have made it impossible for her to remain open as she intends.
In August of 2012, Martha received national media attention after she held a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls, one of whom was the daughter of a close friend. County government officials informed Martha that local ordinances required a permit to be obtained prior to hosting such an event and that she would be fined $5,000 for doing so. Martha was also charged with two additional violations with up to $5,000 fines apiece – one for advertising a pumpkin carving and another for operating a small shop on her property that Martha used to sell her fresh produce and handmade crafts. County officials made these claims and levied fines without ever stepping foot on her property to actually see her operations.
When Martha informed the county that she had obtained a business license to operate her farm store, local bureaucrats told her that the county regulations had been recently changed to require additional permits to sell items like handspun yarns and birdhouses.
In a sign of solidarity, nearly 100 of Martha’s supporters protested an August meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals carrying pitchforks and questioning why the government is mandating permits to host small gatherings on private property. This “Pitchfork Protest” was reported on Fox & Friends, The Washington Examiner, The Blaze and dozens of national and Virginia news sources. Additionally, Martha’s struggle with overreaching and overregulating local government has gotten the attention of property rights advocates and constitutional scholars from across the country.
Martha has filed a lawsuit in Fauquier Circuit Court to prove that zoning officials and local bureaucrats have overstepped their legal authority and have violated her constitutional rights. Michelle Rosati, Martha’s lawyer and member of the Federalist Society, is also claiming that the county has violated Martha’s due process rights and her rights under the Freedom of Information and Right to Farm Acts.
House Bill 1430- The Boneta Bill
In response to Martha’s story, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter has introduced legislation for the upcoming 2013 General Assembly Session to strengthen Virginia’s Right to Farm Act (VRFA) and protect farmers against future encroachments by local government.
The original intention of the VRFA was to protect the rights of Virginians to engage in a tradition and way of life that has been fundamental to the citizens since the founding of the nation. Despite the VRFA, the ordinances enacted in Fauquier have restricted the traditional citizens’ ability to farm and run a small business, which has its roots in the Commonwealth’s founding.
House Bill 1430 will strengthen the VRFA and ensure that the heritage and traditions of farming in the Commonwealth of Virginia are respected at all levels of government. By amending the defining section of the VRFA to include the byproducts of farm produce and the sale of items incidental to farming, House Bill 1430 ensures that government officials cannot take action to restrict or prevent the citizens from engaging in commerce. The bill also expressly sets forth that any county ordinance is void if it were to violate constitutional rights on agricultural property, such as speech, assembly, religion, and other freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights.
“In November of this year, over 74% of Virginians voted to strengthen property rights by amending the Constitution of Virginia. Just as that amendment will protect Virginian’s against overreaching governments, House Bill 1430 will ensure that no government official, elected or appointed, will restrict the right to property that our Founding Fathers, many of whom were Virginia farmers, held as inherent and sacred. The Boneta Bill adds teeth to the Virginia Right to Farm Act to protect property rights and individual liberties.I am looking forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly and with local government in asking them to stand with me to protect farmers, small businesses, and our Virginia way”, said Lingamfelter.