‘Boneta Bill’ killed in Senate committee

By Jessica Dahlberg
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A Senate committee on Thursday killed the “Boneta bill,” which championed farmers’ rights and would have expanded the definition of agricultural operations.

The Senate Agricultural, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee voted 11-4 to “pass by indefinitely” House Bill 1430. That means the bill is dead for this legislative session.

The bill was sponsored by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, and was named after Martha Boneta, a Fauquier County farmer.

Boneta got into a dispute with county officials last summer because she was selling handicrafts and holding events at her farm without having the proper permits. The county threatened her with up to $5,000 in fines, Boneta said.

How they voted

Here is how the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources voted Thursday on HB 1430 (“Right to Farm Act; expands definition of agricultural operations, etc.”).

02/14/13 Senate: Passed by indefinitely in Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources (11-Y 4-N)

YEAS – Hanger, Watkins, Puckett, Ruff, Blevins, McEachin, Petersen, Northam, Marsden, Miller, Ebbin – 11.

NAYS – Obenshain, Stuart, Stanley, Black – 4.

The county’s actions inspired farmers from around Virginia to take up pitchforks in protest and rally behind Boneta. The protesters called themselves “Martha’s Army” and demonstrated at the Capitol.

HB 1430 was introduced at a press conference by Lingamfelter at the beginning of the session. It sought to expand Virginia’s 1981 Right to Farm Act.

The bill was changed in the House Agricultural, Chesapeake and Natural Resource Committee to include a re-enactment clause. That meant the bill would have been required to come back up for consideration during the 2014 General Assembly session.

Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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