Virginia farmers are looking ahead to the 2012 General Assembly and preparing to work for passage of an amendment to the state’s constitution to protect private property rights.

"This amendment helps us tighten up the definition of what public use is," said Wayne F. Pryor, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation president. "It ensures that land cannot be taken and given to another private entity, it makes sure we are compensated for it, and it makes sure more land is not taken than is necessary."

Pryor addresses the proposed amendment in a video blog called "The Real Dirt" on the front page of the VFBF website at He’s referring to House Joint Resolution 693, which grew out of a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right of the city of New London, Conn., to take private property in hopes of boosting local tax income.

Virginia legislators passed regulations prohibiting a similar practice several years ago, but Farm Bureau and other property rights advocates want to reinforce that in the state constitution. The resolution passed in the 2011 General Assembly, but a second passage is needed to authorize a statewide referendum next fall.

"Farmers need the land to farm, to start with," Pryor said in the video. "For them, it’s their land, they bought it, they paid for it, they pay taxes on it and they just don’t feel it’s right to take it from them and give it to another private entity."

Farm Bureau producer members have been signing postcards to their state legislators since this past summer in support of the amendment. As of early November more than 13,500 signatures had been collected for a campaign that will kick off in earnest on Jan. 24, 2012, when Farm Bureau members from across the state visit their representatives in the General Assembly.

"I think the timing is right to get this amendment passed now," Pryor said. "It’s not only good for farmers, it’s good for all Virginians to protect their property rights."