VERONA — The use of air cannons, carbide cannons or other loud explosive devices for the purpose of repelling birds is now banned in Augusta County after the board of supervisors unanimously voted to adopt an amendment to the current noise control ordinance on Wednesday.
The issue of air cannons first came before the board at its Oct. 23, 2019, meeting where county residents described the use of air cannons to be “a constant aggravation that can’t be escaped.” The cannons, which are designed to produce high intensity sound percussions to repel birds, are commonly used to scare off crop-damaging birds from farming operations.
Clay Trainum, owner of Autumn Olive Farms, spoke at both the October supervisors meeting and Wednesday’s meeting. Trainum said back in October that his farm’s losses were more than $25,000 before using cannons.
“We are continuing to address [an issue with starlings] at our farm. They come in every year and we suffer losses to piglets,” he said. “Starlings carry disease and some of those affect our animals. We worked with the USDA pretty extensively on the topic. Their position continues to be that the use of a propane cannon used in consideration with neighbors is an appropriate tool and the only non-lethal, most effective tool.”
Trainum asked the board to consider each air cannon issue on a case-by-case basis, rather than an out-right ban.
After its October meeting, the board worked with Del. John Avoli, R-Staunton, to introduce a bill to allow localities to do just that. However, Avoli’s bill did not pass this session. Earlier this month, a representative from Avoli’s office said the delegate moved to strike the bill on advice from the Virginia Farm Bureau, who believed the bill was too broad and could have adverse effects on other farming operations in Virginia.
“We made every effort to make it an incident-by-incident situation. Current state law allows us to ban them or allows everyone to use them, those are the only choices,” board chairman Gerald Garber said Wednesday. “We asked for permission to do this on a case-by-case basis. Believe it or not, we were stonewalled by a massive farm organization who thought they were protecting the farm community.”
Garber added that the board would attempt to pass similar legislation next session.
The noise ordinance also was sent back to the ordinance committee after the board’s October meeting for further review. The committee again recommended a county-wide ban for the board’s approval.
The board voted 7-0 in favor of prohibiting the use of air cannons for the purpose of repelling birds in the county.
“I do apologize, and I understand your situation,” Garber said to Trainum publicly after the board’s vote Wednesday night. “We had people in Richmond who thought they were looking out for you, but they weren’t. If we’re successful next year, we can change this and get something that works better.”