Local farmers met with U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, from North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District, on Tuesday in Rockingham to discuss the Farm Bill that has been in effect since 2008.
According to the U.S. Senate committee on agriculture, nutrition and forestry, Congress passes a legislation bundle, typically called the Farm Bill, every five years. The bill sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry policies. The last Farm Bill was passed in 2008 and Congress postponed writing a new bill in favor of developing a short-term farm bill extension.
Members from both the North Carolina Farm Bureau and the Richmond County Farm Bureau, as well as committee members from the Farm Service Agency and local farmers attended the Tuesday morning meeting.
Hudson, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, met with the local farmers to discuss problems facing the agricultural community so he will be better prepared when Congress draws up a new Farm Bill later this year, the freshman congressman said.
Hudson said that he hopes the meeting on Tuesday is the start of a dialogue between him and the farmers and he wants to conduct these types of meeting regularly.
“I trust someone here in Richmond County to love their land more than a bureaucrat in Washington,” said Hudson.
Chris Yaklin, president of the Richmond County Farm Bureau, said that some of the problems facing farmers today are taxation and the inheritance tax. The inheritance tax, also known as the estate tax, is a tax on the transfer of assets at death.
Amy Yaklin, executive director of the Richmond County FSA, said that the issue of the estate tax is a very important issue.
According to the group United for a Fair Economy, in 2012 the tax-exempt amount was $5 million. If the total value of the estate is larger than the tax-exempt amount, an estate tax is imposed on the portion above the exemption before the remaining assets are distributed.
Anna Haberlein, communication director for Hudson, said that the problem is that most farms have land and equipment that bring them over the $5 million exemption making them eligible to be taxed 35 percent. If a farm, or land, is inherited by a family member, it is taxed. If that same land is then passed down to a younger generation, it is taxed again. Hudson is looking to permanently repeal the tax and called it “the most immoral tax we have.”
“If we drive people out of farming, food prices will go up and we will cripple the economy,” he said.
Hoping to keep the future Farm Bill separate from the looming budget battles, Hudson warned about an upcoming budget fight and said that it has been tough trying to get a Farm Bill passed because of politics.
Hudson, who did not have specific answers to questions because the bill has not been drafted yet, addressed concerns about educating the farming workforce, energy, estate tax and immigration.
He said that educating the farming workforce is one of his top priorities and he wants to look at tapping into other sources of energy, such as natural gas and oil, because America has to help keep the cost of energy use on farms down.
“I think he called it pretty straight. I like to see someone who admits he doesn’t know everything,” said Jerry Morgan, a member of the FSA committee, who owns 473 acres of farmland in Richmond County.
Many people attending the meeting felt that Hudson touched on important topics.
“I think he made really good points,” said Amy Yaklin.