CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, is calling on the General Assembly of Virginia to pass legislation put forth by Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter which would exempt homeowners and small farmers from onerous regulations and state inspections which inhibit their ability to produce food for their family, friends, and neighbors. Citing the frightening trend of small food producers having their livelihood threatened through the implementation of onerous regulations generally fit for large scale agricultural and food production operations, Whitehead is calling on the legislature to protect the basic human right to raise and produce food, and to exchange that food with others for valuable goods or currency. HB1839 is currently under review by the General Assembly’s Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources.
“From SWAT team raids carried out at the behest of the Food and Drug Administration to onerous zoning regulations which prevent farmers from hosting pumpkin carving parties for children, local food producers are increasingly criminalized to their personal detriment and that of society as a whole,” said John W. Whitehead. “This is the result of an overabundance of vague laws that render otherwise innocent activity illegal. In such a society, we are all petty criminals, guilty of violating some minor law.”
In recent years, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have been asked to help a number of people subjected to seemingly arbitrary zoning laws and regulations which inhibit their ability to provide food for their friends and neighbors. In one such case, a farmer in Fauquier County was prevented by the Board of Zoning Appeals from selling the vegetables, eggs, herbs, honeybee products, and handspun fibers from livestock produced on her property. There are many similar cases occurring across the country, such as a small farmer whose property was raided by government agents after he made unpasteurized goat cheese and shared it with members of his community, as well as home gardeners facing jail time for cultivating their own varieties of orchids without having completed sufficient paperwork.
In the face of a government bureaucracy consumed with churning out laws, statutes, codes and regulations that inhibit citizens’ ability to enjoy the fruits of their labor, small farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to secure their livelihood and provide goods which they share and exchange with their friends and neighbors. In light of this situation, Whitehead is advocating for the passage of HB1839, which would be a good first step in pushing back against these burdens, by freeing homes and small farms from inspections and regulations, while also ensuring that the food products, including meats or other substances that are subject to specific (and in some cases, federal) regulations, use substances that have been legally obtained and/or processed. Homes and small farmers would also be required to sell their products directly to the consumer, and include a label with the product ingredients and a warning that the product is “not subject to Virginia’s food safety laws and regulations.”