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.

Every June, the FSA begins the annual process of accepting nominations for candidates willing to serve on county committees. Elections for these candidates are 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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Wednesday was a frustrating day in North Carolina for people who believe in a transparent food system. The House voted to override the governor’s veto of the Property Protection Act, House Bill 405, by a margin of 79-36. Without any notice at all to the public, the Senate made a special motion to come into session and followed suit minutes later with a 33-15 vote.

Our efforts to sustain the Governor’s veto fell short only by 8 votes in the House, and 4 votes in the Senate. The vote was as close because so many of you called and emailed your legislators and expressed your concerns with the bill, which will subject whistleblowers who expose illegal or unethical activity at almost any business in North Carolina to stiff penalties. Thank you all for taking the time to learn about this bill and to call, email and tweet. Know that you made a difference. No one expected that the Governor would veto this bill; he did because of the pressure that you brought to bear.

Although the tidal wave of calls and emails asking legislators to sustain the Governor’s veto failed to sway many of the members of the General Assembly, a number of legislators heard your voices and voted to maintain transparency in our food system and in other businesses around the state. Our thanks are due to Representatives Harrison, Carney, and Martin as well as Senator Stein spoke on the floor today to explain why this bill is bad for the state. Though it wasn’t enough to change the vote today, it was a lot. You have made a big impression on the legislature this week; you are a force to be reckoned with and that did not go unnoticed.

CFSA remains committed to policies that promote a transparent, sustainable food system in the Carolinas. Please continue to work with us as we move forward from this day.

To see how your Representative and Senator voted Wednesday, click the links below. CFSA encourages you to contact your member to thank them if they voted to sustain the veto. It was a vicious fight; they would probably like to hear some supportive words.

Here is the Senate vote:

http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/voteHistory/RollCallVoteTranscript.pl?sSession=2015&sChamber=S&RCS=351

Here’s the House vote:

http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/voteHistory/RollCallVoteTranscript.pl?sSession=2015&sChamber=H&RCS=677 

 

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A Voter’s Guide to Questions on Farm & Food Policy in the Carolinas

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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

[email protected]

Twitter Handle: @NelsonDollar36

Rep. Dean Arp

House Chair

Office: (919) 715-3007

[email protected]

Twitter Handle: @DeanArp

Rep. Justin P. Burr

House Chair

Office: (919) 733-5908

[email protected]

Twitter Handle: @RepJustinBurr

Rep. John Faircloth

House Chair

Office: (919) 733-5877

[email protected]

Rep. Linda P. Johnson

House Chair

Office: (919) 733-5861

[email protected]

Twitter Handle: @lpj4569

Rep. Donny Lambeth

House Chair

Office: (919) 733-5747

[email protected]

Twitter Handle: @DonnyLambeth

Rep. Chuck McGrady

House Chair

Office: (919) 733-5956

[email protected]

Twitter Handle: @ChuckMcGrady

Sen. Harry Brown

Senate Chair

Office: (919) 715-3034

[email protected]

Sen. Kathy Harrington

Senate Chair

Office: (919) 733-5734

[email protected]

Sen. Brent Jackson

Senate Chair

Office: (919) 733-5705

[email protected]

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