The Virginia Farm Bureau helps to "protect farming, agriculture, and the Virginia way of life." They publish an extensive list of policies their members support. Below are my responses to their candidate questionnaire.
Please tell us briefly why you are seeking this position.
I'm a Libertarian which means I want to implement Libertarian policies of free markets and civil liberties. Republicans and Democrats in the Virginia Assembly keep growing the budget and handing out subsidies to privileged businesses. Meanwhile, they have failed to pass legislation that would reduce police abuse and legalize marijuana.
What are your three main priorities as a candidate?
I want to lower taxes and spending across the board by 10%, end the war on drugs, and expand school choice.
Farmland Preservation: What can the General Assembly do to help landowners preserve working farms and forestland?
Cut taxes so you can afford to keep the land and to keep farming viable. The Virginia Assembly taxes and spends too much. In 2010-2012, Virginia’s operating budget was $79 billion. In 2018-2020, it will be $121 billion, with the approval of every Republican in the General Assembly, and almost every Democrat. I propose cutting the next biennial operating budget by 10%. So, for 2020-2022, that would be a total of $108.5 billion. (Amazingly, that is still higher than the 2016-2018 budget!) That will allow farmers to afford to keep their land and pass it down to their children.
Economic Development: Where do you think agriculture and forestry fit into the local and state economy? How does it compare with other industries?
Agriculture and forestry are important to Virginia but, like every other industry, should not be subsidized. Libertarians support a level playing field and reduced taxes for everyone, and oppose government picking winners and losers. Legalizing production of hemp and marijuana in Virginia would be a boon to Virginia farmers, particularly in light of the shrinking tobacco industry.
Science-Based Decision Making: What role does science play in your decision on a piece of legislation? What scientific resources do you rely on for issues related to agriculture?
Most publications have some sort of bias so I think it’s important to rely on multiple sources for any science-based decision making. I can’t say I’ve spent enough time studying agricultural science in particular to recommend specific publications, but I’ve found the libertarian Cato Institute to be good on a wide variety of topics and they’ve published quite a bit on farming policies over the years.
Energy: Solar energy is seen as a clean and renewable source of power. However, large solar installations are replacing thousands of acres of productive agriculture and forestland in the Commonwealth. How do you suggest we balance landowners' rights to develop their property while protecting productive working lands?
In 2018, the General Assembly made the bizarre choice to subsidize both coal companies and renewable energy companies like solar. That’s good for the bottom line of those companies, but bad for taxpayers. I support a free market: no subsidies for anyone and low taxes for everyone, including for solar, coal and agriculture.
Water Rights: What rights or access do landowners have to use the natural resources associated with their property (ie. minerals, water, oil, gas, etc.)? What role do you believe government has in regulating access or use by the landowner?
Landowners should be able to use the natural resources associated with their property unless they have traded those rights away to another entity and been compensated appropriately. Government should primarily be involved to ensure property rights are protected rather than regulating in great detail how resources are used.
Cooperative Extension: What is the role of Virginia Cooperative Extension in the localities you will represent? How could those programs better support economic growth in agriculture and forestry?
I’m not very familiar with the Virginia Cooperative Extension. I generally support efforts by voluntary associations supported by members rather than government funded and controlled efforts. In the Assembly, you could expect me to try to work to limit state bureaucracy that gets in the way of agriculture and forestry, but not look to me to provide taxpayer funded efforts.
Food Labeling: What standards should be in place for labeling food products and which level of government should be responsible for establishing these standards?
I realize food labeling is intended to help protect consumers and provide predictable standard requirements for produces. Ideally, I think the governments should stay out of this area and that best labeling practices would develop in the market economy. To the degree labeling is mandated, I prefer more control at the state rather than federal levels.
Property Rights: There are several significant eminent domain projects moving forward in Virginia (ex. expansion of natural gas pipelines, road and rail improvements, etc.). Do our current laws do enough to protect landowners?
I support private property rights and stronger protections against eminent domain. I oppose most, if not all, eminent domain takings. If landowners don’t want to sell, they should not have their land taken from them. Projects should find another route or be cancelled if land at reasonable rates can’t be found.
Right to Farm: Virginia's Right to Farm Act seeks to protect qualifying farmers from nuisance lawsuits filed by individuals who move into a rural area where normal farming operations exist, and who later use nuisance actions to attempt to stop those ongoing operations. Do you support current law or do you feel changes are needed?
I support Virginia's Right to Farm Act and am not aware of changes that are needed. I believe in private property rights and think it’s wrong for individuals to move into rural areas and file nuisance actions to stop farming. If someone doesn’t like farming around them, the libertarian solution is to choose a location away from farming or (and I realize this isn’t practical always) buy the farm property at free market value and redevelop it.
What is the best format to discuss issues with you? How do you communicate with your constituents?
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website votemarklewis.com where you can also find my facebook.