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On January 26th, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality issued one of the final critical permits needed to begin construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

Responding to the news, North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten said, “North Carolina Farm Bureau and our state’s farmers applaud and thank Governor [Roy] Cooper and his administration for approving the permits that will allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to move forward. We believe, and our farmers across the state believe, that natural gas in rural North Carolina is important for advancing our number one industry and certainly it’s important for economic development in rural North Carolina.”

Pres Wooten on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Approval - YouTube

What is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP)?
Put simply, the ACP will help deliver natural gas to rural North Carolina. The new pipeline will link North Carolina to the abundant natural gas supplies of the Marcellus and Utica shale regions in the northeast. Traveling approximately 600 miles, the pipeline will move up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. While most of that supply will used for electricity generation, there is sufficient volume to enable local natural gas distribution companies to expand their system to meet the demands of farmers and help drive rural economic development projects.

KEY ACP INFO
  • 600 miles from West Virginia, thru Virginia, ending in Robeson County, NC
  • Provides 1.5 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas
  • 36-inch diameter pipe in NC
  • Expected to provide $7.7 million in local property tax revenues in NC
  • Possibility of $134 million in annual energy cost savings in NC

Why the ACP is good for Agriculture?
As we have discussed before, rural infrastructure initiatives are critical to the success of our rural economy. This is exactly the intent of the ACP – to boost our rural economy. While boosting our rural economies, the availability of natural gas is a key component to growing the State’s largest industry – Agriculture. This is a win-win situation.

Before the pipeline has even been built, the ACP partners are already meeting with farmers to discuss viable areas to extend natural gas to their farms. Access to natural gas provides farmers lower input costs and less price volatility. It’s also a critical component to siting NEW economic development projects. Currently, North Carolina is served by a single interstate pipeline delivering natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico. Adding additional supply from another region of the country provides diversity and competition, leading to the needed lower costs and price volatility. As the state’s largest general agricultural non-profit, a win for North Carolina’s rural economy and our farmers are great reasons to support this economic development project.

The Bottom Line.
North Carolina’s economic development infrastructure is reliant on a modern energy policy that promotes affordable and reliable energy production and delivery while protecting our farmers, landowners, and natural resources. We look forward to the ACP providing a key component to the infrastructure needed to grow our State’s largest industry and fuel rural economic development.

Read the ACP Factsheet on Agriculture

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It’s no secret that farmers nationwide oppose the Obama Administration’s 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule. As we’ve written here before, the 2015 Rule would significantly expand the area where the federal government has the authority to regulate water. Why? Because under the 2015 Rule many tracts of land would become newly regulated “waters,” even land that is only wet for a couple of hours after it rains.

If implemented, farmers would have to apply for costly federal government permits to engage in even the most basic farming practices on these lands. And there is no guarantee that those permits would be approved. Accordingly, numerous federal lawsuits were filed in 2015, including one brought by American Farm Bureau, in the hopes of stopping the WOTUS Rule.

On Monday, the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) once again waded into the WOTUS Rule waters, issuing an opinion in one of those lawsuits, National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense (NAM). The Court’s decision wasn’t a blockbuster (or a page turner, for that matter). It merely stated that opponents of the Rule had to file their legal challenges in the federal district courts, not the federal appellate courts. That’s the result the opponents of the Rule were hoping for. So, let’s call it a narrow win for farmers and other landowners.

But, ironically, the Court’s decision may be a double-edged sword. To explain why, we’ve got to look back at those 2015 lawsuits we mentioned above.

Remember that, until Monday, opponents of the WOTUS Rule weren’t exactly sure where to file their lawsuits. Should they file in federal district court or federal appellate court? To hedge their bets, multiple lawsuits were filed in both courts. Of the cases filed in federal district court, most were dismissed by federal trial judges who said they didn’t have authority to hear the challenges because the cases should have been—wait for it—filed in the federal appellate courts! But a district court judge in North Dakota said otherwise and blocked the 2015 Rule from taking effect. However, that ruling only applied to 13 states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Therefore, North Carolina farmers were not protected by the judge’s order.

KEY POINTS
  • SCOTUS ruled legal challenges to the WOTUS Rule must be filed in federal district courts, not federal appellate courts—a narrow win for NC farmers.
  • But the ruling currently blocking the WOTUS Rule from taking effect nationwide was issued by a federal appellate court.
  • Since SCOTUS just ruled that appellate courts don’t have jurisdiction to hear legal challenges to the WOTUS Rule, the nationwide stay issued by the appellate court will go away soon.
  • The Trump Administration is attempting to delay, rescind and replace the WOTUS Rule.
  • Congress could also pass legislation to help the Administration block the Rule.
  • But these efforts are almost certain to be challenged in court.
  • There’s a risk the WOTUS Rule may be in effect in NC sometime in late February or March 2018.

Meanwhile, the cases filed in the federal appellate courts were consolidated in the Sixth Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals. The Sixth Circuit ultimately blocked the Rule from taking effect while it wrestled with the procedural question that SCOTUS answered earlier in the week. Unlike the North Dakota decision, the Sixth Circuit’s order took effect nationwide and it has been in effect since October 2015. As a result, North Carolina farmers haven’t had to comply with the 2015 Rule.

But the nationwide order blocking implementation of the 2015 Rule will go away soon. That’s because, at the end of its Monday opinion, SCOTUS sent the NAM case back to Sixth Circuit, directing it to dismiss the all of the cases challenging the rule. If the Sixth Circuit doesn’t have the power to hear those cases, it can’t continue to block the WOTUS Rule. The process of sending NAM back to the Sixth Circuit will take a little over thirty days. So sometime in late February the national stay that has protected North Carolina farmers from the 2015 Rule will evaporate.

Fortunately, in 2017, the Trump Administration took two preliminary steps to stop the WOTUS Rule. First, it drafted a proposed rule that would rescind the 2015 Rule and replace it with the previous version of the regulations. Second, the Administration has also written another proposed rule that would delay the effective date of the 2015 Rule until 2020. If successful, both actions would be good news for farmers—one for the foreseeable future, the other in the short term. Congress could also pass legislation to accelerate the Trump Administration’s efforts. But environmental groups will likely sue to stop the Administration from rescinding the 2015 Rule. That means more litigation and more uncertainty.

For the moment, the ongoing saga of the 2015 WOTUS Rule continues. Stay tuned.

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Via American Farm Bureau Federation

On January 8 President Donald Trump unveiled a major initiative designed to strengthen a rural economy that has lagged urban areas in recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-2008. Trump signed two executive orders that fund and streamline the expansion of rural broadband access after an address to 7,400 farmers and ranchers gathered at American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention.

In addition to economic development, Trump touched on issues of particular importance to agriculturists such as regulations, labor and trade. He praised farmers for their enduring values. “We are witnessing a new era of patriotism, prosperity and pride—and at the forefront of this exciting new chapter is the great American farmer.” Farmers, Trump said, “embody the values of hard work, grit, self-reliance and sheer determination.”

The president spent much of his address decrying the costs of excessive regulation and tallying the rules his administration has moved to eliminate.

“We are also putting an end to the regulatory assault on your way of life. And it was an assault,” he said. Trump singled out the Waters of the United States rule, now being withdrawn following an executive order he signed in the first weeks of his administration. “It sounds so nice, it sounds so innocent, and it was a disaster. People came to me about it and they were crying – men who were tough and strong, women who were tough and strong – because I gave them back their property and I gave them back their farms. We ditched the rule.”

Trump acknowledged controversy over the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade agreements that account for roughly a quarter of U.S. agriculture revenues. “To level the playing field for all of our farmers and ranchers as well as our manufacturers we are reviewing all of our trade agreements,” he said. “On NAFTA I am working very hard to get a better deal for our farmers and ranchers and manufacturers.”

Trump promised the farm bill would continue to lend stability to farmers who are now entering their fifth year of declining incomes. “I look forward to working with Congress to pass the farm bill on time so that it delivers for all of you, and I support a bill that includes crop insurance,” he said.

AFBF President Zippy Duvall said Trump’s visit marked a watershed in D.C. politics.

“Farmers and ranchers have too long faced burdensome regulations,” Duvall said. “This president understands the toll government overreach has taken on ordinary business and is moving swiftly to clear the way for prosperity. We are moving into yet another year of economic difficulty. Relief could not have come at a better time.”

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The following commentary is by North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, first published in the Winter 2017-18 issue of NC Field and Family.

Mergers showcase the need for competitive choice

Progress has been a guiding principle of farming since before North Carolina’s first Commissioner of Agriculture Leonidas L. Polk established Progressive Farmer magazine in 1887, after serving in office.

With each new season of the year, it seems there is also a huge new merger or acquisition being announced in the name of progress. With the dizzying pace of consolidation in agribusiness, it seems appropriate to consider both sides of this double-edged sword. Is consolidation beneficial to farmers and consumers? Or do these legal strategies lessen competition to the point where too many options vanish?

According to industry analysts, these deals may result in increased efficiencies, crop yields and time savings, so we’re typically told this merger or that acquisition is ultimately for the benefit of farmers and consumers. Yet, is consolidation the only way, and the best way, to achieve progress?

What makes our economy prosperous? Is the answer independent, strong small businesses? Or, is it the consolidation of large corporations? Like most things in life, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. Ideally, we’d like everyone to be prosperous. But one thing is certain: Farmers and consumers need choice!

There should be a balance between competition and efficiencies in the marketplace. Mergers and acquisitions decrease the number of sellers and lessen choice. By industry accounts, synergies resulting from consolidation may lead to new discoveries and products that could possibly benefit farmers and consumers.

Dow and DuPont Pioneer’s merger and ChemChina’s acquisition of Syngenta are just two of the major deals completed recently. Bayer’s proposed acquisition of Monsanto is expected to be approved by regulating agencies and finalized in early 2018.

The circuit breaker for consumers in all of these mergers and acquisitions is an efficient and strong regulatory system that ensures abundant competition, which historically has resulted in great technological advancements. Every great leap forward in industrial precision practices tends to bring with it monopolistic conditions. Monopolies reduce choice and hurt farmers, consumers, and ultimately, the U.S. economy. Divestitures often occur to ease these concerns. DuPont sold part of its crop-protection business to appease regulators. Bayer may need to divest some of its seed and herbicide lines.

National and international mergers continue to threaten the competitive choices available in the agricultural marketplace. Farm Bureau is watching and ready to provide any appropriate assistance to help ensure the continuation of an adequately competitive marketplace for farmers and consumers!

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In a few days, North Carolina Farm Bureau members and voting delegates will travel to Greensboro, NC for the organization’s 82nd Annual Convention. The event is a celebration of the year’s work: growing the membership, advocating for farmers and rural families, telling the story of North Carolina agriculture, and investing in the future of our state. But the convention is also the culmination of the year’s policy development process — a process that, for more than 80 years, has exemplified the true grassroots spirit of Farm Bureau.

We’ve discussed Policy Review Day in the past, and have talked about how that event kicks off the policy development process.

During the fall, those policy resolutions go back to all 100 counties and are reviewed, debated, and in some cases modified. This involves countless hours of input from thousands of farmers across the state. All of those county recommendations came together earlier this week and were reviewed again by a 100-person committee comprised of farmers.

At Annual Convention, those resolutions will again be discussed by a voting delegate body of more than 600 farmer members. The process is thorough, comprehensive, and is a wonderful example of how North Carolina Farm Bureau has remained true to its grassroots foundations.

As always, we look forward to next week’s Annual Convention, and we are proud of what it means for this organization and North Carolina agriculture.

READ: Eighty Years of Service for North Carolina Farm Bureau

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From American Farm Bureau Newsroom

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s Thanksgiving Dinner Price Survey shows diners will enjoy a slightly more affordable Thanksgiving dinner this year. Micheal Clements has more.

Clements: The 32nd annual informal Thanksgiving Dinner Price Survey shows consumers continue to enjoy an affordable food supply as this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is the most affordable in five years. The average cost for 10 for a classic Thanksgiving Dinner decreased less than two percent, remaining under $5 per-person, according to AFBF market intelligence director John Newton.

Newton: The price of Thanksgiving Dinner is $49.12, that’s down 75 cents, or one and a half percent from last year and shows that the Thanksgiving dinner is down for the second consecutive year in a row and remains below five dollars per-person.

Clements: The decline was driven by lower retail turkey prices, along with lower prices for milk and rolls. The average cost of turkey this year is $22.38 for the whole bird.

Newton: Wholesale turkey prices are at their lowest level since 2013, and given that the turkey represents nearly 50 percent of the basket’s total, it’s the biggest factor driving the price decline. Turkey prices came this year in at $1.40 per-pound, that’s down two cents from what we saw last year.

Clements: Meanwhile, the supply of pumpkins for processing for pumpkin pie has rebounded from a couple of years ago.

Newton: The supply of pumpkins this year should be more than adequate. We’ve had favorable growing conditions for two consecutive years in a row in Illinois, where the majority of pumpkins are produced.

Clements: Full survey results are available at www.fb.org. Micheal Clements, Washington.

2016 Thanksgiving Dinner Price Survey: Thanksgiving Dinner Ticks Down to Less Than $5 Per Person

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Agriculture is the foundation of North Carolina’s rural economies, and plays a key role in strengthening and supporting our state’s rural communities. But another vital component of rural economic development is rural entrepreneurship – the innovators and creators who build upon the entrepreneurial spirit of agriculture by adding value, developing solutions, and investing in the communities they love.

North Carolina’s growing population is a fertile market for farm direct agricultural consumption. Farmers engaging in on-farm entrepreneurship benefit the state and their neighbors through stewardship of natural resources, creating local economic value, fostering a sense of community and preserving North Carolina’s cultural heritage. Among the types of businesses North Carolina’s rural and farm community develop are experiential businesses such as agritourism, product-based businesses such as farm made foods, value-added products, and crafts and service businesses targeted to the public or other farmers.

North Carolina Farm Bureau is proud to recognize our state’s agriculture and food innovation. This year, for the first time, North Carolina Farm Bureau members will select the North Carolina Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneur of the Year. From a strong field of 44 applicants, three finalists have been selected based on their impact in rural North Carolina, their impact to the agricultural community, and for the innovation and creativity of their business ideas. The finalists will attend NCFB’s Annual Convention and pitch their businesses to NCFB volunteer leaders, who will vote to decide this year’s winner. The three finalists are:

Devine Farms is an important member of the Catawba County agriculture community. When judges reviewed their application they were impressed with how the Devines have worked with their community to partner with local schools, businesses and non-profits. Judges were particularly impressed with Devine Farms’ purpose to educate individuals about “agriculture, history and how food is produced.” The judges noted, “Their focus on agritourism is a model for other farms attempting to do similar projects.”

Devine Farms 2018 Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge - YouTube

Fonta Flora Brewery is a fixture in the revival of downtown Morganton. The judges reviewing their application were impressed with their positive impact on jobs in the community. They were also impressed with their dedication to sourcing local ingredients from local farms. Judges also noted that the purchase of a local farm will enable the brewery to produce some of their own ingredients and will further increase the economic impact of the brewery through additional jobs.

Farm Bureau Grant Submission Video - YouTube

Four Prongs Tea and Herb located in Watauga County is a value added medicinal herb business. Ginseng is a heritage herb product from Western North Carolina. While the market for ginseng roots is well established, the tops have been considered a waste product—no one uses them, that is until now by Four Prongs Tea and Herb. Judges reviewing their application were impressed by the knowledge base of company founders and the potential to add sales of tea made from ginseng leaves to an already established market for ginseng roots. Judges noted that “Their idea capitalizes on a sustainable niche.”

Four Prongs Tea & Herb, Boone NC - YouTube

North Carolina Farm Bureau is proud of all this year’s applicants and we wish the best of luck to Devine Farms, Fonta Flora Brewery, and Four Prongs Tea and Herb as they compete for this year’s award. We’re excited to see what you’ll think of next!

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You can fry it, roast it, smoke it, cook it upside-down or even in a bag. But regardless of how you fix it, the centerpiece of most dinner tables this Thanksgiving will be a turkey. We were planning to give a brief history lesson of how turkey became the America’s Thanksgiving staple but apparently it is a matter of much debate, so we’ll steer clear. However, we will take the opportunity to show our appreciation to the hardworking farmers that provide this delicious Thanksgiving centerpiece every year by highlighting the importance of this commodity to our state with some great facts. So this year while shopping for that perfect turkey be sure to think about our turkey producers and maybe share a few of these fun facts around the table.

18 factoids about turkeys

  1. North Carolina ranks second in the nation in turkey production
  2. In 2016, more than 1.2 billion pounds of turkey were produced in NC
  3. Turkey, NC (near Clinton) is one of only three towns in the U.S. named Turkey
  4. 33.5 million turkeys were produced last year in NC
  5. The most turkeys ever produced in NC was in 1992 when farmers raised 62 million turkeys
  6. Last year, the value of turkey production was nearly $1 billion
  7. In 2016, the average American consumed about 16.7 pounds of turkey
  8. Headquartered in Garner, Butterball is the largest producer of turkey products in the U.S.
  9. The male turkey is called a tom and the female turkey is called a hen
  10. The “Turkey Trot” (ballroom dance) was actually named for the short, jerky steps that turkeys take
  11. Turkeys can see in color but not well at night
  12. Turkeys are related to pheasants and lived almost ten million years ago
  13. Turkey consumption more than doubled since 1970
  14. In 2015, turkey was the #4 protein choice for American consumers
  15. Almost 70 percent of U.S. turkey exports go to Mexico
  16. Turkey eggs hatch in 28 days
  17. Turkey is low in fat and has more protein than chicken or beef
  18. A 15 pound turkey usually has about 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat
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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.

Farm Nuisance Legislation

House Bill 467, Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies, became law in May after the General Assembly overrode Governor Cooper’s veto with bipartisan support. The bill was drafted in response to a judge’s ruling in an ongoing lawsuit between landowners and Smithfield Foods.

[READ: North Carolinians’ Right to Farm is Under Attack]

  • North Carolina’s nuisance law is intended to compensate property owners for the loss of the use and enjoyment of their property when their neighbor engages in unreasonable conduct
  • But some trial lawyers are distorting North Carolina’s longstanding case law to turn nuisance lawsuits into a personal injury claim (e.g., fear of future illness due to smells emanating from farms)
  • H. 467 clarified North Carolina’s law relating to available damages in nuisance lawsuits against farms
    • In 2015 a federal judge ruled our law is unclear about the damages that may be awarded in temporary nuisance actions against farms
    • This bill limits damages to the diminished market value of the plaintiff’s property for permanent nuisances, or the loss of fair rental value for temporary nuisances, but never more than the full market value of the property
    • The bill provides these same protections for third parties who may be sued based on their contractual relationship with a farm
  • In short, H. 467 provides a clear rule for applying damages in farm nuisance cases
    • It compensates people for the value of their property, but not for subjective claims for annoyance, discomfort, and fear of future harm
  • The new law doesn’t prevent lawsuits against farms that create nuisances, operate negligently, or break the law.
  • It simply discourages lawsuits that seek damages far beyond the full market value of a property
Budget & Tax

The primary purpose of the long session is to adopt a two-year state budget. The 2017-19 state budget, S. 257, authorizes $23 billion in spending including a number of agriculture related provisions:

  • Provides $20 million for agriculture disaster relief, including $1 million for drought relief in Western North Carolina
  • Increases funding for NC Cooperative Extension, Ag WRAP, farmland preservation, Golden LEAF and Tobacco Trust Fund
  • Lowers personal and corporate tax rates by 2019

Additionally, the Legislature adopted S. 628, which revised our state tax code in various ways. One provision exempts agritourism activities from sales tax on admission fees. The treatment of agritourism activities under the sales tax law had caused confusion for farmers and the NC Department of Revenue for several years, and this provision will clarify the issue.

Farm Act of 2017

Finally, the legislature adopted S. 615, the North Carolina Farm Act of 2017, with bipartisan support. Governor Cooper signed it into law on July 12th. The bill contained numerous provisions important to North Carolina’s farmers, including:

[READ: Why Do We Need a Farm Act?]

  • Present use value (PUV) for grazing fees and sale of bees and products of beehives
    • Allows grazing fees for livestock and the sale of bees or products from beehives, excluding honey, to apply towards PUV income requirements
  • Abandoned livestock
    • Defines abandoned livestock as those placed in custody of a person for treatment, boarding, or care and whose owner does not reclaim the animal within two months of the last day the owner paid a boarding fee
    • After the two-month period, the person left with the animal may sell or humanely dispose of the livestock
  • Clarifies when a farm engaging in agritourism is exempt from county zoning authority
    • To be exempt from county zoning power, agritourism operations must:
      • Possess a qualifying farmer sales tax exemption certificate; or
      • Be enrolled in the present use value program
    • Agritourism includes activities taking place on the farm for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, including weddings, receptions, etc.
  • Other zoning statute changes
    • Clarifies that residences may be built on bona fide farm properties
    • Defines farm buildings as any nonresidential building or structure used for bona fide farm purposes
    • Provides that therapeutic equine facilities are considered farm buildings
    • Eliminates a county authority to zone swine farms with 600,000 lbs. steady state live weight or greater
  • Intrastate farm truck exemptions
    • Exempts farm vehicles engaged intrastate commerce from marking their vehicles with farm identification and NCDOT/USDOT numbers
  • Professional engineer not required to decommission animal waste structures
    • Decommissioning performed by Soil & Water Technical Specialists
    • Does not apply to design or installation of spillway
  • Authorizes wine sales at farmers markets
    • Qualified individuals holding a winery special event permit are allowed to give free tastings and sell wine by the glass or in closed containers at farmers markets and other special events if allowed under local law
  • Allow farmers who suffer an natural- or weather-related disaster to extend conditional farmer sales tax exemption certificates for one year, if the farmer meets certain requirements
  • Amends agricultural labor organization policies
    • An agricultural producer’s status as a union or nonunion employer cannot be used as a condition for an agreement to sue or settle litigation
    • Exempts agricultural producers from transferring funds to a labor union or labor organization to pay for an employee’s membership fees or dues
Redistricting

Another issue that we’ve been following and will continue to keep an eye on is the legal battle over redistricting. North Carolina’s congressional and legislative maps are currently being reviewed by federal courts and appeals are likely. In other words, we don’t expect a resolution soon. Stay tuned.

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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?

As a co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, the budget is one of my largest focuses. We have made it a priority to invest wisely in key government programs like education, transportation, and public safety, while eliminating wasteful spending and streamlining government. When I first took office, our state faced a nearly $2.5 billion deficit and we lacked the savings to fill the hole. This past year, a bill I sponsored became law, which moves savings to the forefront of the budget process, and I am happy to report that at nearly $1.83 billion we now have the most in savings ever!

Question #4: North Carolina’s agricultural community has a goal of becoming a $100 billion industry. How can the legislature help farmers and agribusinesses achieve that goal?

Since 2011, we have passed significant reforms in the agriculture sector. From our annual Farm Act, regulatory reform bills, and numerous stand-alone pieces of legislation, agriculture is in a much better place than before to achieve this goal. Going forward, it is going to be crucial to ensure that farmers have access to the inputs they need to be successful.

Whether it is a stable labor force, sufficient water, or having access to the most recent technology, the industry will rely on it all to continue to expand. I also believe that there is a huge untapped sector of the ag industry in value-added production that will help us grow the industry to $100 billion a year.

Question #5: Earlier we asked about how your experiences as a farmer give you a unique perspective in the General Assembly. Despite that, why is it important for you to hear from other farmers about issues affecting their farming operations? What advice/tips would you offer farmers that might help them give their legislators a better understanding of the challenges and rewards associated with farming?

North Carolina has the 3rd most diverse crop selection in the country, so every farmer has a different set of issues they face. The same is true for our terrain; we all know that farming in the red clay of western part of the state is different from farming in the sandy soil of the east. With that said, there are many of the same issues that all farmers across the state face, and this is why it so important to hear from other farmers and ensure that we speak with a unified voice.

My advice to my fellow farmers would be to get to know your representatives and spend time with them. Personal relationships are key. I would also like to add that my door is always open and my staff and I are more than willing to help if you have an issue or concern.

Answers modified slightly for format.

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