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?

Just four in the NC House, and only one in the NC Senate. That’s five out of 170 seats, or about three percent.

In a 1797 letter to Arthur Campbell, Thomas Jefferson suggests three percent might not be enough: “All can be done peaceably, by the people confining their choice of Representatives and Senators to persons attached to republican government and the principles of 1776, not office hunters, but farmers whose interests are entirely agricultural. Such men are the true representatives of the great American interest, and are alone to be relied on for expressing the proper American sentiments.”

Now, we’re not suggesting that every seat should be held by a farmer; that wouldn’t be very realistic. But North Carolina is still a relatively rural state. Agriculture is still the foundation of our economy and is our leading economic driver, accounting for $84 billion of our GDP last year and supporting one out of about every six jobs.

So even if farmers can’t be at the legislature as members, it’s still vitally important that their voices are heard in Raleigh. That’s why North Carolina Farm Bureau is dedicated to giving voice to our state’s nearly 50,000 farmers, making sure their concerns are heard and their interests are expressed.