TheFirstFurrow

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 2017 Legislative Long Session Recap

The NC General Assembly adjourned (again) a couple weeks ago, and with November officially upon us it’s probably as good a time as any to put a bow on this year’s legislative session. Overall, it was a good session for North Carolina agriculture, with the General Assembly enacting several important measures to help farmers. Today, we want to give you a quick overview of a few key legislative actions.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 An Interview with the Interns – Daniel and Kortney

This week we interviewed Warren Leadership Fellows Daniel Radford and Kortney Smith, who spent this summer interning with North Carolina Farm Bureau learning about public policy and agricultural advocacy. Daniel is majoring in Animal Science and Agricultural Science with a minor in Agricultural Business Management at NC State University; Kortney is a rising senior at NC State studying Agricultural Education.

What was your favorite part of the internship?

Kortney: My favorite part of the internship was flying out to Washington, D.C. with Linda Andrews and Mr. Wooten for a few days. I had never been to D.C. so it was a great experience. It was really eye-opening to see the major differences between how things are handled at the state level versus on a national level and I may have been inspired just enough to possibly take my future career back there!

Daniel: My favorite part of the internship was being able to expand my network, and learning more about the legislative process. Everyone at Farm Bureau has been very welcoming and willing to help in any way that they can, and I am very thankful that they made me feel welcomed this summer. I really enjoyed meeting everyone and building these relationships.

What did you find the most challenging during your internship?

D: Since I was new to working with policy, it took some time for me to learn how the whole legislative process works. Jake and Paul spent many hours mentoring me and Kortney on how everything works at the General Assembly. On the first day, they spent time explaining how to look up bills and discussed how bills move through the General Assembly. I can definitely say that I would have been lost without them, but with their help, I understand the process a lot better than I did when I started.

K: The most challenging part of the internship was definitely learning how to navigate the General Assembly website and understand how bills were moving and what was important in each. Bill language can sometimes be very backwards and confusing, so we had to learn how to follow through all of the citations and correctly interpret what that particular provision meant. After the first few weeks though, we began to get the hang of things! We didn’t always interpret correctly, but we made drastic improvements from our first day!

What was the best advice you received?

K: Without a doubt, the best advice I received was to always ask questions. You can either sit and stay confused about something or ask questions and get a better understanding. There were so many times that I had no idea what was happening, but when I asked questions, things always made more sense and I could actually follow along and get more out of a particular experience.

D: Have an open mind and be open to new opportunities. Being open to new things has allowed me to be able to get the most out of my experience here at Farm Bureau. Walking into my internship this summer, I can definitely say that I did not know what to expect. This summer has been one I will always remember. As my internship is coming to an end, I am thankful for the many opportunities that I have been given while being a part of the Farm Bureau team.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 Why Do We Need a Farm Act?

Stick with us here. Most people probably understand the wisdom, or can at least appreciate the purpose, of maintaining your home. Over time your home gets cluttered, things break, and some of those deep, dark corners you never visit have to be dealt with. It’s not always a fun job, but doing it can make your home a more enjoyable place to live.

North Carolina’s statutes, just like a home, require ongoing maintenance. So it’s necessary, on occasion, for the Legislature to take a look at our statutes and clean up some of the confusing, unhelpful, and out-of-date provisions.

That’s where the annual Farm Act comes into play. Each year since 2013 state legislators have passed a Farm Act to make necessary changes to the law to better serve North Carolina’s farmers.

Monday, March 27, 2017 North Carolinians’ right to farm is under attack.

For more than two decades, two out-of-state trial lawyers have made millions suing farmers across the country. Four years ago, they came to North Carolina and started picking fights between about 90 hog farms and their neighbors, alleging the farms were nuisances. The lawyers told the neighbors they could recover substantial damages far exceeding the value of their homes. They didn’t ask the farmers to address the alleged nuisances—they just asked for money.

Interestingly, a judge kicked these lawyers off the cases, finding there was “credible undisputed evidence” they had violated North Carolina’s legal ethics rules as they recruited clients. Nevertheless, the cases were allowed to continue with new attorneys.

Most reasonable people understand there are some aspects of farming that are unpleasant. You can’t raise animals without some odor; you can’t transport farm products without trucks; and you can’t work the soil without occasionally stirring up dust. Recognizing this reality, North Carolina’s right-to-farm statute provides farmers with a limited defense against some nuisance lawsuits. But the right-to-farm law is silent about the amount of damages that can be recovered in nuisance actions.

In 2015, a federal judge considering these cases ruled that North Carolina’s nuisance law isn’t clear on damages. If this isn’t clarified, more lawsuits will be filed, pitting neighbor against neighbor. That means more money for the lawyers.

That’s why a bill was introduced last week in the N.C. House of Representatives. House Bill 467, introduced by Reps. Jimmy Dixon, John Bell, Ted Davis and David Lewis, would limit the compensatory damages in nuisance cases to the market value of the plaintiff’s property. Basically, if a nuisance reduces the value of your home by $25,000, you can be awarded up to $25,000.

The bill doesn’t prevent a neighbor from recovering damages in a legitimate nuisance suit. It cuts off the incentive for lawyers to use farmers and their neighbors to grow their bank accounts.

Farmers care about the communities they live in. Many times, they work with their neighbors to address problems and create solutions without unnecessarily wasting resources settling complaints in court. House Bill 467 is an assurance to all farmers that they can farm their land without the fear of repeated litigation and without the specter of catastrophic damages and legal fees.

The General Assembly should quickly pass H. 467.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 Farmers Flock to Jones Street for 2017 Agriculture Awareness Day

Ask most farmers and they’ll probably tell you they don’t like taking days off the farm. The job demands a lot of time and attention, and it’s critical that farmers stay on top of the day-in day-out tasks (like covering strawberries before a freeze) that lead to a successful year. But today, hundreds of dedicated farmers and friends of agriculture from communities all across the state have left their farms to do another kind of work—meeting with their legislators. That’s because today is NC Agriculture Awareness Day, a day for farmers and ag leaders to bring awareness to the legislature about the importance of agriculture in North Carolina. And it’s an essential task too; with so few legislators involved in agriculture, today’s rally is a valuable opportunity to help legislators understand the challenges that farmers face.

So what are some of those challenges farmers will be discussing with their legislators? Ask ten farmers and you might get ten different answers, but there are a few themes that rise to the top. This year, the key messages that Farm Bureau members will be delivering are:

Hurricane/Wildfire Recovery

  • Last year, the legislature appropriated $200 million in hurricane/wildfire relief.
  • But even though we’re many months removed from those disasters, many NC farmers are still recovering.
  • We support additional disaster relief funding during appropriations process.

Preserve Present Use Value Program

  • The Present Use Value Program provides qualifying farms with property tax relief by taxing the land based on its present use (farming or forestry) and deferring market value taxes.
  • This helps farms continue production and preserves farmland.
  • We support the preservation of this vital tax program.

Preserve Ag Sales Tax Exemptions

  • Eligible farmers are exempt from sales tax on farm equipment, inputs, and services.
  • This helps prevent double taxation on farm products and products derived from agriculture.
  • The legislature should maintain these exemptions if tax reform legislation is considered.

Healthcare Costs

  • Most farmers purchase health care in the individual market because they are often small businesses or sole proprietorships that don’t have access to group coverage.
  • Farmers are bearing the brunt of significant health insurance increases and struggle with inconsistencies in premium subsidies.
  • Farmers are also dealing with a sluggish ag economy and disaster recovery, further cutting into their bottom line.
  • Legislators should work to keep health care costs down.

North Carolina Agriculture is not only our state’s largest economic driver but it also supports more than 600,000 jobs—about one out of every six in the state. That’s why it’s important that legislators are kept up to date on ag issues; because if ag is hurting, then so is our economy.

NC Farm Bureau would like to thank all of the legislators who take time to meet with our farmers and hear their concerns.

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 Why NC Should Fix Its Eminent Domain Law

News flash: Farmers own a lot of land. In fact, they own about 8.3 million acres in North Carolina, which is more than a quarter of the state and is roughly the size of Maryland and Delaware combined. It’s not surprising, then, that they pay attention when the General Assembly takes up bills relating to eminent domain. Last week the N.C. House of Representatives passed an eminent domain bill, H. 3, by a large bipartisan vote. It’s a good bill, so let’s use this opportunity to briefly talk about eminent domain and why H. 3 is needed.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 2017 Legislative “Long” Session Preview

The North Carolina General Assembly gaveled in its 2017-18 long session a couple weeks ago, but so far the action has mainly been getting bills filed and holding a few committee meetings. As state legislators prepare to roll up their proverbial sleeves, let’s take a moment to talk about a few issues we’ll be watching this session.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 Farmers on Jones Street

Last week, the 2017-18 General Assembly opened this year’s session, and in a few weeks they will dig in on their new legislative agenda. As you probably know, Republicans hold a 74-46 majority in the NC House and a 35-15 majority in the NC Senate. In the NC House, there are 19 new members, seven Democrats and 12 Republicans; in the NC Senate, there are five new members, all of whom are Republicans.Demographic information is important to understanding the composition of the legislature. Instead of looking at the usual race or gender breakdown, we decided to take a look at another bit of demographic information: occupation. Based on NC House and NC Senate Clerk Reports, the leading occupations are attorney, business owner, real estate broker, business executive, and consultant.

So how many farmers are there in the legislature?