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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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?
Last week we told you about the difficult year North Carolina farmers had in 2015. This week we want to show you how that bad weather has converged with a few other factors to put many farmers in a really tight spot as they prepare for the 2016 growing season.
First of all, weather is always a wild card in agriculture. Here’s a chart (Figure 1) showing how weather events have affected US corn production over the last 50 years. Nearly every decrease in crop yields can be attributed to some adverse weather event. Farmers certainly understand this and do everything they can to manage risk, but there’s only so much they can do when extreme events occur.
There’s no such thing as a perfect year when it comes to agriculture, especially considering the diverse geography and climate of our state. There will always be uncertainty when it comes to the weather—will we have a freeze, drought or flood? But in 2015 we had all three in a single year.
We could spend days discussing the role weather played in crop loss last year, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a farm that didn’t experience some sort of weather event. But today, we’ll focus on the Waterlogged Fall of 2015.
If you need help remembering what we’re talking about, this picture should help jog your memory.