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Boneta Bill Part Deux Overwhelmingly Passes the Va House and Senate

image4I have had the great fortune of getting to know Martha Boneta over the last few years and visiting her farm in beautiful Fauquier County, Virginia on several occasions. My family has fallen in love with this wonderful lady and we all consider her family. And I would guess we are not unique in that sentiment.

Martha has a genuine love of life that is infectious. She is passionate about farming in a way that can’t help but make anyone she comes in contact with want to burn their suits and ties and fancy dresses and buy a farm and live the dream.

As you walk around her farm you see the love and respect she gives each farm animal right down to their names. And you instantly realize that Martha, the animals, the soil and the crops are one with nature. It is a flowing dance of peace and harmony that you instantly recognize as nature in balance. A surreal ballet where the symbiotic circle of life is on display right in front of your eyes. It is a scene that not even the great masters could capture on canvas and modern photography can never hope record the life and soul in each unique and beautiful second.

But it seems that there are people in this world that derive great pleasure in disrupting the natural symphony that plays 24 hours a day at Liberty Farms.

First the county began interfering with Martha demanding she have permits for whatever they could make up. And tossing road block in her way at every turn. Virginia already had a “right to farm” law, but it seems that the law had not anticipated the types of unrealistic and illogical meddling Fauquier County engaged in aimed at only one farm in the entire county.

So Martha and her friends worked very hard after all else had failed to convince the state legislature that more was needed to allow farmers to farm and keep regulations and permits in check. So the Boneta Bill made it’s way through the state legislature and was signed into law by Governor McAuliffe.

So, end of story, right? Martha and her family can farm in peace.

Unfortunately, no. The legislature did their intended job and the county is no longer able to single out the Bonetta’s farm, but Fauquier is a small county (population wise) and everybody knows everybody.

Martha003So it would appear that this war against Martha moved from the County Board of Supervisors to their friends at the Piedmont Environmental Council, a private group that is supposed to oversee the Conservation Easement on the property.

Now when Martha and her family bought the land, there was already an easement. She knew about it and was perfectly fine with the terms. She simply wanted to farm the land and preserve it’s beauty and that is what the easement required. She is not allowed to develop the land, and has no plans to do so. Why would she?

But the PEC has far overstepped their authority. The Fairfax Free Citizen put it this way:

Still, the Piedmont Environment Council (PEC), a private company and the lead co-holder of the conservation easement on her farm, continued to harass Ms. Boneta, repeatedly overstepping its authority under the Virginia Conservation Easement Act. PEC even went so far as to claim legendary Civil War Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson camped on the farm, calling on Virginians’ affection for the hero of First Manassas to bolster its argument for preserving the pristine countryside and not sullying it with farming activities.

Ms. Boneta would have none of that. For the second year in a row, she pulled together a bipartisan movement advocating establishment of a fair and lawful means for property owners to resolve disputes with conservation zealots. That movement eventually produced bipartisan legislation—HB 1488, or “Boneta Bill-2″—that allows property owners to use the rule-of-law practices enshrined in the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act to resolve disputes with holders of conservation easements.

By the way, in the process, Civil War historians disproved General Jackson had ever camped at her farm. Another moral triumph against a bullying, scamming adversary.

Having won her Trenton and Princeton victories in the last two General Assembly sessions and assuming Governor McAuliffe doesn’t self-destruct with a veto of HB 1488, Farmer Boneta has turned the tide of war between the formerly beleaguered property owners and small farmers of Virginia and the affluent, ideologically militant conservationists who have rampaged across Virginia for far too long.

The current bill is on Terry McAuliffe’s desk and I urge him to sign this bipartisan legislation, which may be the only bipartisan bill this session.

So is this the end of the harassment? I would like to hope it is. But if history repeats itself again, it may well be time to disband groups like the PEC and have Conservation Easements carry a mandatory expiration date. Properly maintained and enforced Conservation Easements can be a good way to preserve the natural beauty of Virginia. But with the tribulations that Martha has been through, the value of conservation easements is greatly diminished.

Martha spreads her love and joy of farming and often has young people visit her farm to learn why protecting the family farm is at least, if not more important, than protecting the land itself. Because a small family farm depends on conservation and renewable processes to thrive, the land is preserved as a byproduct of family farming.

Congratulations to Martha Boneta and her family for another victory. And to those that would continue this fight, know that there are throngs of Virginians with pitchforks at the ready to protect Martha and the far too few family farms that made America what it is. If more legislation is needed, I have no doubt it will be passed.

And I look forward to my next visit to Martha’s farm. (When it is much warmer!)

About Tom White

Tom is a US Navy Veteran, owns an Insurance Agency and is currently an IT Manager for a Virginia Distributor. He has been published in American Thinker, currently writes for the Richmond Examiner as well as Virginia Right! Blog.

Tom lives in Hanover County, Va and is involved in politics at every level and is a Recovering Republican who has finally had enough of the War on Conservatives in progress with the Leadership of the GOP on a National Level.

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Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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