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VFBF votes on policies during convention
By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
NORFOLK, Va. (Dec. 8, 2015) — Delegates at the 90th Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention discussed a wide swath of policy issues is setting their agenda for the coming legislative session.
Close to 300 delegates representing Virginia’s 88 counties voted on policy issues on Dec. 2 and 3 at the convention.
“Policy recommendations made at the grassroots level culminate at the convention and direct our efforts in the upcoming year at the General Assembly and in Washington,” said VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor.
Two proposals to streamline the Farm Bureau’s position on raw milk sales were debated but defeated. The proposals called for deleting language about how raw milk sales should be regulated if they were to become legal, only keeping language opposing raw milk sales. Delegates in favor of the deletion said it would strengthen Farm Bureau’s position and keeping the language could send a signal to lawmakers that a bill regulating the sale of raw milk would not be strongly opposed.
Delegates who spoke against deleting the language said it was first included to show Farm Bureau was being proactive on the issue.
A resolution supporting the “growth and sale of marijuana for medical purposes and the research of pesticides for such plants” was heavily debated on the convention floor and put to a ballot vote.
Supporters of the resolution offered stories of how the plant has helped people in their medical treatments while opponents, including some with careers in law enforcement, said it would encourage wide use of illegal narcotics and shouldn’t be a Farm Bureau issue. After the ballots were counted, the resolution was soundly defeated 207 votes against to 55 votes in favor.
Delegates approved a resolution that livestock owners should be allowed to know the identity of the person who files a complaint of animal abuse against them.
Delegates opposed to the resolution said the resolution could be views by the public as an intimidation tactic by the public on one hand, and on the other, it could end up promoting activist organizations who file complaints by giving them publicity if their name is available.
One delegate said people are allowed to file complaints using a fictitious name but if the issue goes to court, they will have to be identified. Another said when the issue goes to court, the farmer’s name is tarnished regardless if he is found guilty and the legal fees involved can be crippling.
Use and abuse of Farm Use vehicle plates was discussed by delegates with a proposed resolution to “work with DMV to develop a way to identify proper uses of farm use tags.”
Lee Pemberton of Hanover County and a member of the VFBF board of directors said in his county with a population of more than 100,000, he sees the tag’s misuse almost daily and as the abuse grows, lawmakers could outlaw the practice.
“They think Farm Use entitles them to do what every they want,” he said of non-farmers using the tags.
Delegates opposing the resolution said the fear of losing the tags altogether came out of a few county governments considering measures to increase revenue from license fees but they don’t think it would happen statewide.
After paper ballots were cast on the resolution, the resolution was adopted with 146 votes in favor to 101 votes opposed.
A resolution from Mecklenburg County was approved to support extending the crop insurance closing date from Sept. 30 to Oct. 30 with the rationale being crop breeding and growing technology has allowed farmers to stretch tobacco harvest into October while it is still at a disaster risk.
Bicycle and pedestrian safety was also discussed with the delegates passing a resolution supporting more safety enforcement and required use of bike trails and lanes when available and, specifically, requiring the use of a white headlight and red tail light visible from at least 500 feet on any highway or road with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or higher.