With the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain, the protection of private property rights has become an issue that has sparked national attention and discussion. Virginia Farm Bureau Federation [VFBF] has been involved in the ongoing dialogue.
“Farm Bureau has a natural interest in the U.S. Supreme Court decision,” said Susan Rubin, assistant director of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Our members have been disproportionately involved in condemnation cases because of the amount of land required for their farming operations.”
Virginia Farm Bureau was at the forefront of eminent domain reform during the 2005 General Assembly session. The organization initiated two bills to tighten the laws regarding rights of property owners in the condemnation process. The bills, sponsored by Del. Terrie L. Suit, R-Virginia Beach, covered landowner issues dealing with right of entry by a condemning authority; and fair compensation in the acquisition process. Both bills overwhelmingly passed in the Senate and House chambers.
“All property owners need to understand eminent domain laws so they can protect themselves and their land,” said VFBF President Bruce L. Hiatt. “Respect for private property rights is a fundamental building block of our nation. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of erosion of those rights.”
VFBF was one of 18 state Farm Bureaus that in early December signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the American Farm Bureau Federation in Kelo v. City of New London.
“Agricultural land is the livelihood of our farmers and ranchers and important for U.S. food and feed production, but land used this way is not the highest income generator for government bodies,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Tax revenue cannot be the basis for seizing private property.”
Virginia Farm Bureau also serves as a member of the Virginia Housing Commission’s Eminent Domain/Blight Removal/Brownfields Remediation Issues Work Group. The group’s charge includes developing a definition or criteria for the determination of public use; reviewing eminent domain legislation referred to the commission and providing recommendations for action.
“Farm Bureau is aware of the growing interest throughout the state to see changes in Virginia’s laws,” Rubin said. “We support all efforts that increase the rights of property owners and look forward to participating in additional eminent domain reform.”
Virginia Farm Bureau Federation: www.vafb.com