Lawmakers Discuss Legislation to Ease Regulations on Farm Activities

By: Estephany Escobar Email
By: Estephany Escobar Email

Rockingham County - A bill that would be discussed in the general assembly this week could put fewer restrictions on farm activities.

Under bill HB268, farmers would be able to sell more local products.

Friendly City Food Co-Op manager, Steve Cooke, sent letters to lawmakers in favor of the bill.

"They would be more encouraged to grow, more encouraged to sell in the local markets on their own farms," said Cooke.

In addition, local governments would not regulate the events taking place at the farm.

According to Rockingham County Administrator, Joe Paxton, the bill would exempt farmers from requesting a permit from the county.

"We see it as a benefit for the community to have the dialogue about those activities rather than being by right," said Paxton.

Paxton said currently, a farmer approaches the county to request a permit. The county makes sure there is adequate access to the property, law enforcement, if necessary and public sanitation. He said the process keeps all agencies informed about the event.

"The county's goal is not prevent people from undertaking an activity, It is just helping them do it in a way that is safe for everybody," said Paxton.

For on-going farm events, neighbors can voice their opinions to the board of supervisors. It could take the county 60 to 90 days to approve certain permits.

"I think it is important for it to have scalability and that things make sense, that a small family farm could have an event on their farm without having to a lot of extra hoops," said Cooke.

Under the bill, local governments could regulate some of the activities, if the events have a substantial impact to health, safety and the general welfare of the public. However, Paxton said the impact may only be known after the event.

The bill passed the house and will go to the senate for a vote.


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