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Farmers check in with state legislators regarding specific bills

RICHMOND—Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., (R-Mount Solon) rounded the corner to his General Assembly office and came face to face with a hallway full of farmers.

“Give me 60 seconds,” Hanger said, indicating documents in his hand that needed to be taken somewhere specific. But before he left, he encouraged the visitors from Augusta County Farm Bureau and Greene County Farm Bureau to find seats in his office.

“Crazy things going on,” Hanger said when he returned, explaining that Tuesdays can be particularly busy when the state legislature is in session. “But nothing is more important than meeting with constituents from back home.”

His guests were participating in Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Legislative Day, during which Farm Bureau volunteer leaders from across the state visit their respective state senators and delegates. They make the visits partly to clarify VFBF positions on specific issues and partly to serve as a resource, should legislators need farmers’ perspective on pending bills. The theme of the Jan. 22 event was “From the Ground Up,” a reminder that VFBF policy gets its start in Virginia’s 88 county Farm Bureaus.

“How’s your Senate Bill 1309 coming?” asked Greene County Farm Bureau President Joanne Burkholder.

Hanger introduced SB 1309, a companion to HB 2209, to strengthen the powers delegated to the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board. Farm Bureau supports the move, which would give the board direct oversight of regional soil and water conservation districts’ funding and operations; Virginia agriculture best management practices cost-share standards; nutrient management standards; and the Resource Management Plan Program. The board includes farmers among its members.

“Most of us like having the governance where we can get to the people we know,” said Nancy Swisher of Augusta County.

Other issues of interest to Farm Bureau members who met with their legislators were HB 2004, which would codify current state law that says landowners owe no duty of care to trespassers in most situations; and the current moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia. The VFBF supports both. Farmers also explained why the organization opposes current wording of a bill that would expand Virginia’s Right to Farm Act.

“We already have a pretty strong right to farm law,” Hanger noted, and his visitors agreed.

In all, he was able to meet with them for about 15 minutes. “Are you going to be serving up milkshakes tonight?” he asked, referring to Farm Bureau’s annual legislative reception that features Virginia farm products.

As they left, he followed them into the hallway—where he met a waiting group of farmers from Rockingham County.

Contact Martha Moore, VFBF vice president of governmental relations, at 804-290-1013.


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