Farm Bureau: Farmers visit Capitol to lobby on eminent-domain

Farmers said their Jan. 24 visits to members of the General Assembly during Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Legislative Day were a critical step in securing a constitutional amendment to protect private property from eminent domain abuse.

Farm Bureau leaders meet annually with their state delegates and senators to share their thoughts on legislative issues relevant to agriculture and to explain why Farm Bureau has taken some of its specific stands.

“There is no substitute to being present … emails don’t compare to a good, solid handshake,” said Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who spoke to about 150 Farm Bureau leaders. He also has voiced support for the constitutional amendment.

HJ 3 and SJ 3, the House and Senate versions of the bill, tighten the definition of public use and require just compensation for owners whose property has been taken for public use.

For a constitutional amendment to be enacted, it must pass in the General Assembly two years in a row with the exact same wording. If the proposed amendment passes this year as it did in 2011, it will be placed on the November ballot.

Cuccinelli attributed the success of moving the amendment this far to Farm Bureau’s collaborative work with lawmakers and other groups.

“Farm Bureau has been on point on this issue and has done a great job of leadership and coalition building,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll see the fruits of our labor this year.”

In addition to eminent domain reform, Farm Bureau leaders urged lawmakers to uphold the state’s ban on Sunday hunting.

The organization has opposed Sunday hunting for decades. When deliberating on the policy, representatives cited faith-based beliefs as well as the ability of horse riders and landowners to use the outdoors one day a week without worrying about hunters.

Other issues discussed with legislators included cost-share money to implement conservation practices to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Watershed Implementation Plan in the Chesapeake Bay region and total maximum daily load requirements in the Southern Rivers region.

Additionally, Farm Bureau representatives asked for funding for the state’s coyote damage control program. Virginia saw a 32 percent increase in coyote attacks on sheep and a 69 percent increase in attacks on calves last year.

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