NC Issues

nc-issues

FSA County Committees

USDA FSA LogoThrough participation in local FSA county committees, farmers and ranchers have an opportunity to voice to their opinions and share their ideas on federal farm programs. Committee members make important decisions about federal farm programs that FSA staff implement at the local level.

In June 2017, FSA began the annual process of accepting nominations for candidates willing to serve on county committees. Elections for these candidates will be held over the month of November. Serving on a local FSA committee is an opportunity for farmers and ranchers in the Carolinas to get involved in the administration of FSA programs. Diverse representation of farmers ensures that all of the voices of agriculture are included in important local decisions about the implementation of federal programs.

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Healthy Food Small Retailer/Corner Store Act

Background

There is a growing movement to increase fresh, healthy food access in corner stores and convenience stores. Many people living in food desert areas often can only access food that is available for purchase at these types of stores. Over the past several years, there have been multiple county and city level initiatives in North Carolina working to increase the availability of fresh, healthy, local foods in these types of retail establishments. Not only do these initiatives improve community access to fresh foods, they also create new markets for North Carolina farmers to sell their products.

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Farms and Food in the State Budget

Background

One of the General Assembly’s most important roles in odd numbered years is to pass a budget for the next two years. How does this process work? First, the head of each state agency (for instance, the Commissioner of Agriculture) provides it’s suggested budget to the Governor. The Governor publishes a budget that doesn’t have the force of law, but signals the administration’s spending priorities. The Governor’s budget is part of the conversation, but the budget is actually crafted in the NC General Assembly, which has the authority to spend your tax dollars.

What does the General Assembly do? It’s complicated, but at its most basic, one chamber (either the House or the Senate) begins the budget process. Once the first chamber passes its budget, the action moves to the other chamber. What ends up happening is that we have two budgets that aren’t the same–one from the House and one from the Senate. So how do legislators figure out how much they’re spending and on what?

Because the House and Senate versions of the budget are never identical, both chambers appoint some of their members to a conference committee. The members of the conference committee meet privately to hammer out the differences between the House and Senate versions. The budget crafted by the conference committee is then voted on in both chambers and, usually, becomes the budget for the next two fiscal years after being signed into law by the governor (the governor can also allow the budget to become law without signing it, or veto the budget and send it back the General Assembly).

The Current Situation

June 14, 2017

This year, the Senate got first crack at drafting the state budget. The Senate passed its budget on May 12. The House then passed its version of the budget on June 2. Because the two versions were not the same, both chambers selected members to serve on a conference committee. The conference committee  will be responsible for crafting a final version that resolves the differences between the House and Senate versions.

The conference committee will unveil its budget any day now, so it’s important to get in touch with the conferees now to let them know what you want to see in the final budget. What are some of the provisions that impact CFSA members?

Small and Minority Farms program:

  • Senate: eliminated all state funding for the program.

  • House: made no changes to the program as it currently exists for a total appropriation of $237,661 per fiscal year.

Ag Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund

  • Senate: Appropriates an additional $1 million in 2017-18. Total funding to the Trust Fund in 2017-18 is $3.6 million and in 2018-19 is $2.6 million.

  • House: Appropriates an additional $1.million in 2017- 2018, and requires that funds be used to pay for an additional full time staff member and start a Beehive Grant Program with $25,000. Total funding to the Fund in 2017-18 is $3.7 million and in 2018-19 is $2.6 million.

Healthy Corner Store Initiative

  • Senate: Initially appropriated $200,000. All funding was eliminated in a last minute amendment on the Senate floor.

  • House: Appropriates $250,000 in 2017-18 only.

Tobacco Trust Fund:

  • Senate: Appropriates an additional $663,000 on a recurring basis, raising the total appropriation for 2017-18 and 2018-19 to $2.6 million.

  • House: Appropriates an additional $900,000 in 2017-18 only. The total appropriation for the program is $2.9 million in 2017-18 and $2 million in 2018-19.

Take Action

Call, email or tweet at your senator, representative, and the chairs of the conference committee, calling for their support of the programs that help farmers succeed.

Not sure who your senator or representative are or do you need their contact information? To find your legislators, simply go to openstates.org and enter your home address. The name, district, party and chamber of the legislators who represent you will appear on the right half of the screen. Click their name to access their contact information and background history.

When you call or email, you may use this outline:

  1. Introduce yourself (first and last name) and explain that you are a constituent of the legislator (if you are a farmer, be sure to mention that you are actively involved in farming).Special Note: If you’re calling or emailing the Chairs of the Conference Committee and you are NOT a constituent, instead say that you are a registered voter in North Carolina.

  2. Say that you are calling to ask the Senator/Representative to support budget items that make it easier for family farmers to succeed. In particular, you are asking them to support:

    1. The House version of the budget fully funding the Small and Minority Farms Program at the Department of Agriculture;

    2. An increase in the appropriation for the Tobacco Trust Fund–something both the House and Senate versions of the budget included;

    3. A $1 million increase for the Ag Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund; and

    4. A $1 million appropriation for the Healthy Corner Store Initiative.

  3. Say, “thank you”.

  4. Hang up and pat yourself on the back because you made your voice heard on farm and food issues!

If you feel nervous about making a phone call, watch CFSA’s “How To Call Your Representative” video.

Willing to take it one step further and call, email or tweet at the chairs of the conference committee? Here’s their contact information:

Rep. Nelson Dollar

House Senior Chair

Office: (919) 715-0795

Nelson.Dollar@ncleg.net

Twitter Handle: @NelsonDollar36

Rep. Dean Arp

House Chair

Office: (919) 715-3007

Dean.Arp@ncleg.net

Twitter Handle: @DeanArp

Rep. Justin P. Burr

House Chair

Office: (919) 733-5908

Justin.Burr@ncleg.net

Twitter Handle: @RepJustinBurr

Rep. John Faircloth

House Chair

Office: (919) 733-5877

John.Faircloth@ncleg.net

Rep. Linda P. Johnson

House Chair

Office: (919) 733-5861

Linda.Johnson2@ncleg.net

Twitter Handle: @lpj4569

Rep. Donny Lambeth

House Chair

Office: (919) 733-5747

Donny.Lambeth@ncleg.net

Twitter Handle: @DonnyLambeth

Rep. Chuck McGrady

House Chair

Office: (919) 733-5956

Chuck.McGrady@ncleg.net

Twitter Handle: @ChuckMcGrady

Sen. Harry Brown

Senate Chair

Office: (919) 715-3034

Harry.Brown@ncleg.net

Sen. Kathy Harrington

Senate Chair

Office: (919) 733-5734

Kathy.Harrington@ncleg.net

Sen. Brent Jackson

Senate Chair

Office: (919) 733-5705

Brent.Jackson@ncleg.net

Twitter Handle: @SenBrentJackson

Examples of Tweets:

If you tweet, don’t worry about fitting in all of the information we’ve asked you to include in a call or email. Here are some examples:

  • @SenBrentJackson Plz support funding 4 Small/Minority Farmers, Tobacco Trust Fund, Farmland Preservation, and Healthy Corner Stores. #ncpol #ncleg #ncga

  • “@NelsonDollar36 Plz support Small/Minority Farmers, Tobacco Trust Fund, Farmland Preservation, and Healthy Corner Stores in the budget. #ncpol #ncleg #ncga

 

Changes to North Carolina’s Honey Bee Protection Policy

Background

In recent years, beekeepers have been reporting losses of hives at unprecedented levels. The numbers of other pollinators, like native bees, butterflies and bats, are also declining. Much of the food we eat develops because of the pollination these animals provide, so their declining numbers worried a lot of people.

A number of North Carolina farm products produce food only with pollination, so there has been concern in the Old North State about declining numbers of pollinators. Some farmers, beekeepers, farmer advocates and others have been meeting for a year to develop North Carolina’s response to declining numbers. One piece of that response includes some changes to regulations implementing North Carolina’s Pesticide Law.

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Sales Tax Exemption for Farmers

Update–January 2016

Did you have a conditional farmer exemption certificate from the NC Department of Revenue in 2014? Did you also get an extension to file your taxes? If so, your last chance to submit paperwork to the NC Department of Revenue to keep your conditional farmer exemption certificate is February 15, 2016.

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