All 140 members of the Virginia Assembly will vote on SB1195 in the next few days. They will have to go on record whether they like it or not. REMEMBER: Every Delegate is up for election this year.
SB1195 started out as authorizing a warrantless search and seizure program and ended up as……authorizing a warrantless search and seizure program. None of the amendments have fixed this unsurmountable problem. The only thing that will make this program palatable is to add a warrant requirement.
The farm inspection bill, SB1195 is making its way through the Virginia General Assembly and will be on its second reading in the House today (Thursday). The vote for passage is tomorrow (Friday).
The House version of the bill is now different than the Senate version that passed the Senate on a 25-15 vote on February 1st. If the House approves their version on Friday, the Senate will then get a chance to consider the House amendment. Those who are interested in the details of this process can check out the House Rules 75(a) and 75(b) – click on Rules of the House in the narrative.
In the meantime, we have been looking at the federal grant that accompanied this program and found:
* Per the federal grant award, this is a 5-year $3.6M grant. The first budget period is 9-5-16 to
6-30-17. Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services – VDACS – admits that they have begun spending the $500,000 grant (including hiring staff) for this first budget period. This bill is to give them authorization to administer this program. Neither local governments nor the private sector would tolerate a department spending money without authorization – why are we voting to condone this practice? What’s the rush?
* It is standard operating procedure for grantees to complete a grant application for approval. I was told by VDACS that “there really was no application in this case”, but that the approval was sought “through a series of emails”. Has anyone seen these?
* The grant award requires a mid-year report that was due on or about 2-5-17. One person at VDACS says that requirement was waived and another says he’s not sure, but no report is forthcoming. Does anyone know how much state and federal money has been spent so far on this program?
* The grant award requires the state to follow federal regulations. We are clearly not doing that by amending the bill. I asked VDACS about this and was told that it is a concern that we would not be honoring the grant requirements. Why are we passing legislation that could cause us to be eliminated from the program when the audit is done?
* Those who support the bill say it is better for the state to inspect rather than the federal government, but the grant award states that the federal inspectors will do site inspections.
* In addition, the farm that is being cited in southwest Virginia that had to wait so long for an inspector was a cantaloupe farm. (Terrible situation – very sorry that this happened) Here’s what VDACS says happened. There was a listeria outbreak involving cantaloupes nationwide in 2011. In 2013, the FDA issued a “national assignment” to inspect as many cantaloupe farms as possible and this is how this farm was caught up in the federal inspection boondoggle. The point is that if there is ever another national outbreak, the federal inspectors will take over and do the inspections.
* Those who support the bill say that small farmers will not be impacted. Per VDACS, this is a phased-in program with farms of $500k or more included in 2018; farms from $250k to $500k in 2019; and farms $25k-$250k in 2020.
This is a great time to contact your Senator and Delegate and ask them to oppose this bill. And, thank those who have recorded “Nay” votes (see below) and ask them to stand firm.
If they can’t see the light, can we make them feel the heat?
These legislators have a recorded “Nay” vote on this bill – please thank them and ask them to stand strong:
Senate: Black, Chase, Deeds, Dunnavant, McDougle, Newman, Peake, Petersen, Reeves, Stanley, Sturtevant, Suetterlein, Vogel, Wagner
House: Edmunds, Pogge, Ware (has only been heard in committee at this point)