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, October 25, 2017 5 Questions with Senator Brent Jackson

Brent Jackson was elected to the North Carolina Senate in 2010 and is currently serving his fourth term representing Duplin, Johnston, and Sampson counties. He is the co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee and serves on numerous other committees as well.

Jackson and his wife Debbie are first generation farmers, starting Jackson Farming Company in Sampson County in 1981. They currently grow watermelons, cantaloupes, honeydews, strawberries, pumpkins, corn, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, flue-cured tobacco, occasionally cotton, and various other crops.

Question #1: There are only five North Carolina legislators (about 2% of the General Assembly) who list farming as their occupation. As a farmer, what perspective do you bring to the General Assembly? Conversely, is there anything you’ve learned as a legislator that has given you new perspective on the farm?

There are a wide variety of backgrounds amongst my fellow legislators, and I believe that everyone’s individual and unique experiences are a source of value. As a farmer, I have tried to ensure that my colleagues know where their food comes from and the work that goes into putting food on the shelves. I have also made it a point to stress the goodness of American agriculture and the wonderful and exciting career opportunities that exist, especially for young people.

Question #2: In your opinion, what is the most significant state-level issue facing farmers in North Carolina? And what is one issue that may not be on the front-burner for farmers that you think they need to pay more attention to? Why?

I think there are several main issues that we will have to continue to work on at the state level. The first is labor, although mainly a federal issue and President Trump and Congress are working on a solution. However, it is important that from a state level, we are careful not to pass laws making it more difficult for farmers to use a legal workforce. Without a reliable and legal workforce, crops cannot be harvested.

We must also make sure that our regulatory framework is set up to foster growth in the industry and recognize that one-size-fits-all regulations rarely work in farming. Water rights will continue to be an issue that we must remain vigilant on. It will be important for farmers to make their voices heard as the EPA goes about reviewing and rewriting the Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule.

Farming is a way of life in rural North Carolina, and we must do a good job working with our urban citizens to ensure that rural and urban North Carolina works in harmony.

Another issue that we must tackle to ensure the future of farming is the average of the farmer, which in North Carolina is in the mid-50s. Too many of our children in rural communities are moving off the farm and to the cities. It is crucial that we make sure we inspire the next generation of farmers and expose our children to the career options that the ag industry offers. We must also make sure that we help first-generation farmers overcome the barriers to entry, especially given the price of equipment and land.

Question #3: Obviously, you’re very involved in agriculture policy at the legislature. What is another policy area you spend a lot of time working on?
Wednesday, October 4, 2017 5 Questions with Representative Jimmy Dixon

Jimmy Dixon was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 2010 and is currently serving his fourth term representing Duplin and Wayne counties. He chairs the House Agriculture Committee, is Vice-Chairman of Appropriations, and serves on numerous other committees as well. A few years after graduating from Wake Forest University in 1969, working for Procter & Gamble and teaching school, Rep. Dixon returned to his roots in 1973 and started a farming career raising poultry and vegetables for forty one years until his ‘semi-retirement’ in 2014.

His poultry operation grew over the years to raising about 700,000 heavy tom turkeys each year. His main crop production was string beans, cucumbers, and peppers.

He and his wife, Bobby Jean, have five children and six grandchildren.

Question #1: There are only five North Carolina legislators (about 2% of the General Assembly) who list farming as their occupation. As a farmer, what perspective do you bring to the General Assembly? Conversely, is there anything you’ve learned as a legislator that has given you new perspective on the farm?

As a farmer in the General Assembly, I understand that there are many good reasons that we have remained a free nation for these many decades. However, all those reasons combined may not equal the fact that we have been able to feed ourselves and produce an extra amount of safe economical food and fiber to help feed a hungry world.We must never lose the ability to feed ourselves!I have learned as a legislator that the great challenges facing farmers are, in part, twofold. First, government can change the rules in the middle of the game and increase regulations that strangle efforts to be productive. Secondly, special interest groups have leveraged influence within Corporate Board Rooms across the nation that facilitate retail boycott to promote undue regulations and change practices harmful to many safe and well established farming production methods.

Question #2: Has there been one agriculture-related policy provision that you have felt most passionate about, or that you feel would have the most positive impact on farmers?

I think two of the most important legislative actions taken since I have been in the General Assembly are the passage of H405 Property Protection Act passed in 2015 and H467 Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies passed in 2017.I have probably been more passionate about these two bills than any other bills we have passed because of their far reaching positive effect on our ability to unshackle farmers from misguided special interest groups who rely on the sensational and abnormal portrayal of some of our farming practices.

Question #3: What agriculture-related issues are you working on in preparation for the 2018 short session?
Wednesday, September 13, 2017 The Importance of Infrastructure

The following commentary is by North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, first published in the Fall 2017 issue of NC Field and Family.

Initiatives for rural transportation, energy and broadband internet will benefit the state economy

North Carolina’s rural transportation, energy and broadband internet infrastructures are as important to economic development as seed, sun and water are to crops. Economic development is vital for the future of our farmers, rural communities and the population of the entire state.

There is no single “cure-all” for the ailing economies of many rural counties, but these areas have the potential to contribute an additional 38,000 jobs and $10.3 billion to the state’s annual income over a decade, according to a 2014 study commissioned by the NC General Assembly.

Because of this potential, the North Carolina Food Manufacturing Task Force was established April 9, 2015. The Task Force seeks to boost the rural economy with a world-class food processing industry.

The quality of roads and bridges tops the list of infrastructure needs that have a direct impact on the economic viability and quality of life in our rural communities. TRIP, a national transportation research group, recently reported, “North Carolina’s rural roads have high rates of fatalities, bridges show deficiencies; the state’s rural transportation system is in need of modernization to better support economic growth and connectivity.”

The Federal Communications Commission’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report stated that 10 percent of all Americans lack access to high-speed broadband service, while 39 percent of rural Americans lack access. By contrast, only 4 percent of urban Americans lack access.

Affordable electricity and access to natural gas are also crucial for economic development. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will provide natural gas to the rural utilities that need it to serve their communities, and is estimated to lower energy costs for consumers and businesses while contributing an estimated $28 million in annual property taxes to local governments.

Agriculture is a crucial component of future economic development in rural North Carolina through the creation of value-added processing jobs and economically symbiotic small business.

Diverse agriculture, combined with an improved infrastructure, can result in the state emerging as a global food leader. State and federal funding, along with private investment, is required to make infrastructure investments that ensure our rural communities have roads that are well-maintained, energy that is affordable and broadband internet that is accessible.

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.

Thursday, July 6, 2017 Farmers Support the 2017 Farm Act

Last week, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the 2017 Farm Act, a bill that we’ve written about before and that NC Farm Bureau strongly supports.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 You Decide: Can Urban and Rural Areas Get Along?

Written by Dr. Mike Walden and originally published at NCSU CALS News.

My wife and I have one foot in rural regions and the other in big cities. We were both born and raised in small towns – I in an unincorporated town (meaning it wasn’t big enough to qualify as an official municipality) in Ohio and she in a recognized town (but still tiny) in upstate New York. I have a vague memory of my mother pulling me in a little wagon to the country store for groceries. On the way home, the groceries were in the wagon and I would walk!

But we’ve spent almost the last forty years of our lives living in Raleigh since I joined the faculty at N.C. State in 1978. Although it may not have been when we moved here, Raleigh today is certainly a big city. Indeed, it is recognized as one of the most dynamic big cities in the country.

My wife and I love both cities and the country. That’s one reason North Carolina is so great – it has both busy urban areas as well as tranquil rural regions.

But often the urban and rural areas don’t seem to get along. For example, in the 2016 presidential election, urban areas tended to vote for Secretary Clinton while rural regions favored President Trump. We saw the same urban/rural split in the North Carolina gubernatorial and General Assembly elections.

The urban-rural divide in North Carolina also extends to public policy. Here are two examples. Local public schools are partially supported by local property tax revenues. Since property values per resident are often higher in urban counties than in rural counties, there’s been a long-running debate whether this wealth disparity gives urban counties an unfair advantage in funding public schools.

The second example is sales taxes. Part of the sales tax revenues collected by the state are returned to the counties, but there’s an issue over how to do this. Should the distribution to counties be based on where the sales occurred or where the buyers live? North Carolina has a formula using both factors, but there’s frequently a debate about the relative importance of each in the formula. Indeed, legislation was introduced this year in the General Assembly to change the formula.

Has the urban-rural feud gotten worse? Some say three powerful forces – globalization, the elevation of education’s importance and population trends – have moved urban and rural areas farther apart in recent decades.

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.