A record membership year and a successful start toward passage of a property rights amendment to the Virginia constitution were highlights of 2011 for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, according to VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor.
At his Nov. 30 address to voting delegates at the VFBF Annual Convention in Norfolk, Pryor called for Farm Bureau members to keep pressing for passage of the constitutional amendment resolution in the 2012 General Assembly.
“This was not an easy win,” he said, referring to this year’s passage of the resolution to prevent eminent domain abuse. “And winning passage for a second consecutive year in 2012 is essential to bringing this issue to a statewide referendum next fall.”
As of early November Farm Bureau members had signed 13,500 postcards to legislators in a show of support for the amendment. “We’ll be asking for your help again this winter to reach the finish line on this race to better protect our essential property rights,” Pryor said.
House Joint Resolution 693 grew out of a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right of the city of New London, Conn., to take private property in hopes of boosting local tax income. Virginia legislators passed regulations prohibiting a similar practice, but Farm Bureau and other property rights advocates want to reinforce that in the state constitution. A second passage of the resolution would put the proposed amendment on ballots statewide next fall.
Farm Bureau reached an important membership milestone this year as well. “Congratulations to all of you for reaching our highest-ever membership level, 150,830 member families,” Pryor said. “We finally tipped over an important milestone that we’ve struggled to reach for a number of years.”
Looking ahead to 2012, Pryor said Farm Bureau members also will have to be active in lobbying to retain federal crop insurance in the 2012 Farm Bill, considering the financial constraints being forced on all federal programs by the budget deficit. And he urged all Farm Bureau members to learn how to be better spokespersons for their industry.
“For some time now, farmers have felt like we’re always on the defensive in the news media,” Pryor said. “Critics of modern agriculture have kept up a steady drumbeat of attacks against how we raise our animals and our crops. And, unfortunately, they’re getting a lot of attention in the public eye.
“This year, we took steps to take back that ground,” he said. “Virginia Farm Bureau has joined the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, and we’re participating in efforts to reach out and engage the public in a conversation about agriculture.” Pryor urged Farm Bureau leaders to take time to become trained in how to better represent Virginia agriculture.
With more than 150,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to protecting Virginia’s farms and ensuring a safe, fresh and locally grown food supply