Farmers’ input is good

Published 10:44 am Thursday, August 17, 2017

It’s clear that not one, but several Prince Edward County farmers took issue with the proposed fence ordinance considered before the board of supervisors last Tuesday — evidenced during a public hearing where everyone who spoke opposed the proposal.

The proposed fence ordinance that would have allowed a judge to fine up to $250 in civil penalties for livestock owners in the event their animal strays upon a highway, public property or private premises of someone else’s property is set to be amended with the help of county farmers following a split 5-3 vote during last Tuesday’s packed meeting.

We agree with the board that farmers should sit down with County Attorney Jim Ennis to review the proposed ordinance and add suggestions or revisions.

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The existing ordinance — which allows punishment of those in violation as a class four misdemeanor — has been ruled unenforceable by a Prince Edward Circuit Court judge.

Those who spoke — mainly farmers and those who own livestock — voiced concern with the proposed ordinance regarding its vagueness, enforceability and discretion.

It’s our hope that when the farmer sit down with Ennis, they’ll consider the safety of motorists, residents and landowners — both who own livestock and those who don’t.

We also hope the ordinance and administrative policy — regarding the ordinance’s enforcement — has a common-sense approach that is not punitive to farmers and those who own livestock who attempt to repair their fences and whose animals leave their property at no fault of their own.

The proposed ordinance cited the “boundary line of each lot or tract of land or any stream in the county shall be a lawful fence as to any livestock,” noting that a boundary may be defined as a stream — such as a creek, river or other body of water —  that would keep animals from leaving their property.

Lockett District Supervisor and Board Chairman Robert M. “Bobby” Jones said prior to the vote that the ordinance may need tweaking in a few areas, and we agree with him.