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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on occasion, for the Legislature to take a look at our statutes and clean up some of the confusing, unhelpful, and out-of-date provisions.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.

In the past, the Farm Act has addressed wide-ranging aspects of agriculture including transportation, legal liability, deregulation, clarifying terms and interpretation of federal laws, amongst many more.

The 2018 Farm Act is sponsored by Senators Brent Jackson, Bill Cook, and Norman Sanderson. Let’s get to the bill’s highlights:

Right-to-Farm

Last year we wrote about a serious threat to North Carolina’s ag economy: the arrival in 2013 of a group of out-of-state lawyers who make a living suing animal ag operations for nuisance. Fast forward five years. The cases developed and the court heard the first “bellwether” trial in April of this year. Unfortunately, it resulted in a $50 million damage award against Smithfield.

Of similar concern, several months before the first trial began a federal district court judge issued a ruling in the case that eviscerated North Carolina’s Right-to-Farm law, which protects every North Carolina farmer from nuisance lawsuits under certain conditions. The judge wrongly concluded that a farm isn’t protected by the law even when a plaintiff moves near the farm after it was established.

In response, S. 711 strengthens the Right-to-Farm defense and attempts to discourage future copycat lawsuits before they are filed.

Milk Labeling

In an effort to assist the struggling dairy industry and protect product integrity, the bill would direct the Food and Drug Protection Division of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to immediately develop an enforcement plan to enforce the United States Food and Drug Administration’s standard of identity for milk. This would prohibit the sale of plant-based products mislabeled as milk, such as soy milk and almond milk. Enforcement could include notification of the Department’s intent to embargo all mislabeled products offered for sale in the State.

Farm Equipment Property Tax

The bill would require counties that use the “cost approach” in appraising farm equipment to use a standard depreciation schedule published by the N.C. Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue must publish a depreciation schedule for farm equipment and make the schedule electronically available on its website. This ensures that depreciation schedules will be consistent across the state.

Additional Studies

The bill would instruct the Agriculture and Forestry Awareness Study Commission to study: (i) requiring the holders of unused rights-of-way and utility easements to offer the easements to the underlying property owners for fair market value; and (ii) the exclusion of property enrolled in the present use value taxation program from rural fire protection district and county service district taxes.

North Carolina has a rich agricultural tradition, and despite the growth of other industries in our state agriculture remains the state’s leading economic driver. That’s why the Farm Act is such an important piece of legislation, and one that North Carolina Farm Bureau supports wholeheartedly.

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Written by Dr. Richard H. Linton, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University.

We recently welcomed the families and friends of nearly 650 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) students to campus for graduation ceremonies. These undergraduate, graduate and Agricultural Institute students will go on to pursue all sorts of careers — scientist, farmer, industry leader, doctor, elected official – joining thousands of other CALS alumni working to transform challenges into opportunities.

It’s through events like graduation that we are reminded of the tremendous impact of NC State’s land-grant charter – to teach, conduct cutting-edge research, and to extend science-based solutions to the people of our state. We are here for North Carolina.

Our work in the classroom, labs and 18 research stations across the state helps farmers cultivate more productive, more profitable businesses. We are working with government and industry to grow the state’s food manufacturing economy – from seed to supermarket  – in our own backyard. We are engaging families and communities to connect them to where their food comes from and teaching them about healthy choices. And most important, we are preparing our youth to fill the state’s need for a knowledgeable, prepared workforce.

What we Think and Do helps grow North Carolina.

State Leader Engagement

To increase awareness among state leaders of the many ways NC State and CALS are improving North Carolina, especially in our rural communities, we have launched a statewide educational campaign we are calling We Grow NC. You can discover more at WeGrowNC.ncsu.edu.

The campaign includes a series of television and radio public service announcements built around five strategic themes: We Grow Opportunities; We Grow Solutions; We Grow Communities; We Grow Economies; We Grow Talent.

Radio and TV spots will be airing through November on local TV and radio stations across the state, emphasizing how we help grow local economies, create new opportunities and help rural students find their path to NC State. We are also elevating NC State Extension’s role in providing research-based solutions to local challenges.

Promoting Partnerships

We Grow NC will also include public events and activities to encourage and acknowledge our partnerships with business and community leaders in all 100 counties. These partnerships fuel the creation of economic and intellectual prosperity from Murphy to Manteo. As always, we want to work with our alumni, friends and partners to help make North Carolina better, and we hope this campaign identifies new partnership opportunities.

You can help. Let us know how we can help grow your corner of the state. Visit WeGrowNC.ncsu.edu and also sign up to receive CALS news and event updates every week.

We are proud of our land-grant mission and proud to serve North Carolina. Thanks for your continued support and assistance in educating members of your community that how together, We Grow NC.

Let’s get to work. Go Pack!

Dr. Richard H. Linton is dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State University. Before this role, Linton served as department chair of Food Science and Technology at the Ohio State University (2011-2012), and as a faculty member of the Department of Food Science at Purdue University (1994-2011). While at Purdue University, Linton also served as the director (and founder) of the Center for Food Safety Engineering and as the associate director of Agricultural Research Programs.

As dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Linton leads a college of more than 290 faculty housed in 12 different departments, more than 2,800 undergraduate students, 2,450 in four year degree programs and 350 in the Agricultural Institute’s two year degree programs, and more than 1,000 graduate students. Under his direction, the college has developed a new strategic plan that focuses on building people, programs, and partnerships. Collaboration with industry and government is critical to the mission of the college, and Linton’s dedication is demonstrated through the Plant Sciences Initiative and the Food Processing and Manufacturing Initiative, two endeavors that have the potential to create jobs, find solutions to global challenges in agriculture and foster support for local growers.

Linton earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, a master’s degree in food science, and a doctorate in food science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

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The following commentary is by North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Thrive NC in downtown Raleigh. The event had some great food prepared by truly exceptional chefs, live music, a praiseworthy service project, and a summit to discuss food insecurity and childhood nutrition. As the leader of the state’s largest general agriculture non-profit and a farmer myself, I left that summit with a nagging question: where is the disconnect?

Let me explain.

Today’s farmers are growing the most affordable, abundant, and nutritious food in human history. And they are growing more of it while using less inputs thanks to advances in precision agriculture and biotechnology – advances that include everything from drones that help farmers target their water and fertilizer applications, to GPS-driven tractors that improve safety and efficiency, to GMOs that help reduce the need for chemicals while also increasing yields. It’s estimated that today one farmer feeds 155 people compared with only 26 people back in 1960.

Additionally, North Carolina is the third most diverse agricultural state in the nation, and our farmers are top producers of pork, poultry, sweet potatoes, trout, catfish, eggs, cucumbers, strawberries, blueberries, peanuts, and bell peppers. We also grow corn, wheat, tomatoes, watermelon, cabbage, squash, and apples; we raised 830,000 head of cattle and produced 965 million pounds of milk in 2016 alone.

It’s true that not all of this food stays within the state, or even the nation. Farmers feel the responsibility of feeding a growing world population, but the reality remains that they are running small businesses. This sometimes means exploring export markets, especially in times when commodity prices are so low, as they are now.

Despite these sometimes difficult circumstances, North Carolina farmers are doing a remarkable job growing the world’s food and fiber.

Yet last week I learned that North Carolina is the tenth hungriest state in the US, one of every four children face hunger on a regular basis, and approximately 1.5 million North Carolinians struggle to buy affordable and good-quality, fresh food. Those statistics are staggering, heartbreaking, and when taken together with what I know about North Carolina agriculture, those statistics are also bewildering.

Which takes me back the question that has been troubling me since the Thrive NC summit last Thursday – where is the disconnect between the nation’s ninth most productive agriculture state and the nation’s tenth hungriest population? And more importantly, how do we fix that disconnect?

I applaud the efforts of Thrive NC and the discussions it generated were certainly through-provoking. But perhaps my chief disappointment with the summit, and hopefully something that can be remedied at future events, was that more farmers were not included in the discussion. I know our farmers care deeply about feeding people and are passionate about what they do. I also know that they have valuable insights and experiences that will only strengthen and lend credibility to the conversation. And considering they are responsible for growing the vast majority of the food that we eat every day, I think they deserve to be part of the solution.

I realize that the challenge of ending hunger is complex. I understand that the paths that end in failure far outnumber the ones that end in success. I also know that it will take collaboration from countless individuals and groups with varied backgrounds, experience, and knowledge. For our part, North Carolina Farm Bureau is engaged and I hope we can help connect those North Carolinians who don’t have enough to eat with the abundant food and fiber our farmers work so hard to grow.

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April is here, and with it comes warmer weather, spring break vacations, . . . and taxes. Yes, we hate to bring it up but Tax Day is just around the corner — April 17th to be exact — so we thought we’d look a little closer at some of the finer points of the tax reform law that Congress passed a few months ago. We’ve fired a handful of questions to Pat Wolff, Senior Director of Congressional Relations for American Farm Bureau Federation, and she’s given us the inside scoop on what’s new with taxes and what’s on the horizon.

Question #1: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a comprehensive law, making changes to the nation’s tax policies that impact practically every individual and business in the US. Which provisions do you think are most important for North Carolina farmers and how does this reform package help them going forward?

The cornerstone of tax reform is lower tax rates for individuals and businesses. For farmers that means being about to keep more of their money to reinvest in their operations. Farms that pass profits through to their owners for taxation (sole-proprietorships, partnerships and under Subchapter S) will be taxed from zero to 37 percent with that top rate kicking in at $600,000 of income. That’s compared to the old law where the top rate of 39 percent used to start when income exceeded $470,000. The top corporate tax rate permanently shrinks from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Expanded deductions will allow farmers to write off more of their expenses immediately. This will make it easier to reduce taxable income by matching income with offsetting expenses. Section 179 small business expensing is permanently doubled to $1 million. There are no limits on bonus depreciation. And almost all farm businesses get to keep using cash accounting and deduct their interest expenses and property taxes.

Question #2: The reduction in the corporate tax rate has gotten a lot of attention, but the majority of North Carolina farms are family-owned sole proprietorships and partnerships. Are there any provisions in the new tax law that will help family-owned sole proprietorships and partnerships?

Tax reform provides a new business deduction that is available only to sole-proprietorships, partnerships and those that pay taxes under Subchapter S. Individuals operating pass-through businesses will be able to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of net farm income with limitations if taxable income exceeds $315,000 for a couple.

Question #3: Considering that most farms have little liquidity and their capital is usually tied up in the land and farm equipment, why was it important that Congress expand the estate tax exemption level?

Estate taxes have always created hardships for farmers whose businesses are worth a lot because of land holdings. Farmers are land-rich and cash poor but when estate taxes are due the government expects payment in cash. This could mean liquidating farm assets to pay. Tax reform doubles the estate tax exemption from $5.5 million per person to $11 million per person. At this level there won’t be many family farms that will owe estate taxes and it will no longer will be necessary to divert money to pay attorney and accountant for estate planning or for life insurance to protect their farms.

Question #4: As we mentioned above, the tax reform package addressed a lot of the issues farmers have been concerned about. What are the biggest issues that haven’t been resolved or clarified and what do you predict will happen?

Any major piece of legislation is bound to have a few unanticipated consequences and unfortunately the first one discovered had a distorting effect on ag markets. The new tax law provided a much more generous business tax deduction for selling commodities to a cooperative (20 percent of gross) as opposed to a private company (20 percent of net). Congress immediately recognized this as major problem and started work in January to rewrite this section of the law (Section 199A). By the time you read this, a correction that levels the playing field by providing a comparable 20 percent business deduction for commodity sales to both private companies and cooperatives is expected.

Editor’s Note: Pat was right. The Section 199A fix was included in the Omnibus spending bill signed into law March 23rd.

Question #5: Most believe the new provisions are a step in the right direction for agriculture, however, the expiration of some of the provisions have been a topic of concern. What are the next steps for Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations and coalitions in the coming years?

There are a lot of good things about tax reform but unfortunately many of the provisions that help pass-through businesses are temporary. Bonus depreciation starts to phase out in 2023. Lower tax rates for businesses operated as sole-proprietorships, partnerships and under Sub Chapter S end after 2025 as does the new business income deduction and the higher estate tax exemption. Farm Bureau is already talking to representatives and senators about the need to make these provisions permanent. Elected officials know that a huge tax increase is in store if they don’t and there are already rumors about Congress taking a vote yet this year.

And while tax reform legislation sets the parameters, it is the Treasury Department and IRS that will determine the details through regulations. Proposed regulations will all be open for public comment and Farm Bureau will be working to make sure the new rules are farmer friendly.

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The following commentary is by North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, first published in the Spring 2018 issue of NC Field and Family.

Farm Bureau takes a stand on important issues

For more than 80 years, our Farm Bureau brand has served as a trusted voice on issues impacting the agriculture community. We must remain vigilant concerning the issues and challenges ahead of us in 2018.

Legislatively, we have a strong working relationship with the North Carolina General Assembly and the Governor’s office. We might not always agree on every issue, but I can tell you, they always want to hear from us. The same is true for our U.S. congressional members. We have great relationships with all 13 congressional offices and our 2 senatorial offices. This is a testimony to the strength of this organization and our grassroots leadership.

As the largest and most influential voice for rural North Carolina, we must not be afraid to take big, bold, and active stands on the controversial issues impacting our members. We must be prepared to stand alone if necessary. Our membership and the agriculture community expect Farm Bureau to do what is in the best interests of our farmers, regardless of the consequences.

North Carolina agriculture is growing, and it is diverse. We produce many labor intensive crops which demand a stable and plentiful supply of workers. Additionally, our farmers need market opportunities to sell the commodities we produce. At the federal level, we desperately need immigration reform, and we need solid foreign trade agreements to meet the unique demands of our growing industry.

Farm Bureau and agriculture have to be involved in the total discussion of alternative energy. Successful rural economic development for our communities requires 21st-century infrastructure. We need good roads and bridges, widespread broadband connectivity, a modern electric grid, and access to natural gas. Farms that rely on propane for curing tobacco, drying sweet potatoes, and heating poultry or swine facilities are at an economic disadvantage to those who have access to natural gas.

The extreme escalation in the cost of health insurance premiums has caused tremendous economic hardship for the majority of our members and the residents of North Carolina. There are aspects of the Affordable Care Act that benefit people who did not previously have health insurance, but for many of our independent and small businesses the costs have been devastating. The system needs to be repaired so it works for all people.

When Farm Bureau fails to step forward, family farmers and their rural communities suffer. We cannot be afraid to do what is best for our members, and we cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to our advocacy efforts and other member services.

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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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