The state’s largest farmers’ advocacy organization has voiced approval of property rights bills that were successful in this year’s Virginia General Assembly.

“Our producer members have their livelihoods tied to their land and take particular interest in legislation that affects landowner rights,” noted Trey Davis, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation assistant director of governmental relations. “Farm Bureau supported several property rights bills, and we are pleased that state legislators saw them as valuable protections of landowners’ rights.”

HB 2306, introduced by Del. David I. Ramadan, R-Prince William, provides that just compensation paid for property taken using eminent domain shall not be less than the property’s fair market value appraisal, if an appraisal is required, or the current assessed value for real estate tax purposes when the entire assessed parcel is being acquired, whichever is greater.

Current law mandates just compensation be no less than the appraisal of fair market value, if required, Davis noted. “This bill would allow for a potential higher value for just compensation, which our members believe is entirely appropriate in some instances.”

Farm Bureau producer-members statewide worked last year to amend Virginia’s constitution to protect landowners against eminent domain abuse. The amendment, which was approved by Virginia voters in November, specifies in part that private property cannot be taken without just compensation to the owner.

HB 2004, introduced by Del. Benjamin L. Cline, R-Amherst, provides that an owner of real private property owes no duty of care to a trespasser except in a few specific circumstances.

“At this time, landowners owe no duty of care to trespassers in the vast majority of situations where a trespasser comes onto your property,” Davis said. “This bill locks in those protections. Farmers should not have to be worried about being sued by individuals who knowingly trespass on their property.”

HB 1481, introduced by Del. Donald W. Merricks, R-Chatham, is intended to deter theft of scrap metal. Such thefts have been problematic in Virginia farming communities.

The bill provides that any person or business that purchases more than $20,000 worth of scrap metal in a 12-month period take and maintain for 30 days an image of any proprietary articles purchased. It also requires a purchaser to submit to local law enforcement upon request a report of all purchases of certain items.

“We’re hopeful this bill will help rein in the theft of scrap metal from farms by making it easier to track scrap sales,” Davis said. “Farmers in Virginia have had people come onto their property and steal not only scrap, but also metal parts of buildings and machinery that were in use. It’s a crime that’s aggravated by tough economic times, and anything that can be done to prevent it is appreciated.”