The North Carolina Senate approved final changes Tuesday to a bill that scales back a host of unnecessary regulations and provides important legal protections to farmers and other agriculture-based businesses, who comprise the state?s largest industry.
Senate Bill 638, the North Carolina Farm Act of 2013, safeguards farmers and agritourism business owners who have passed federal and state-approved certification programs from frivolous lawsuits and costly litigation.
The bill, sponsored by Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee co-chairmen Sens. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) and Andrew Brock (R-Davie), also eases regulations on farmers who use water for their operations by providing that required state reports be administered biennially instead of annually.
Sen. Jackson, a farmer, worked closely with the N.C. Department of Agriculture, agriculture associations and many individual farmers while crafting the bill to identify the regulations and laws most in need of change.
I applaud Sen. Jackson?s leadership on this bill,? said N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler. ?His commitment to the North Carolina agriculture industry is well known, and the North Carolina Farm Act is a tremendous step toward growing the agriculture industry to one that surpasses $100 billion.?
Agriculture is North Carolina?s largest industry, contributing over $77 billion annually to the state?s economy and employing approximately 17 percent of its work force.
Our industry grew six percent during the recession and continues to be the number one industry in this state,? said Jackson. ?I will continue doing everything in my power to support the Commissioner?s goal of crossing the $100 billion mark, and I think this legislation is a wonderful step in that direction. I look forward to seeing the governor sign the bill soon.?
Senate Bill 638 also:
· Removes regulatory obstacles for farm animal activity operators to help them gain access to insurance for petting zoos, educational programs and other operations that help supplement their businesses.
· Protects farmers? water rights in the case of a water shortage.
· Provides farmers with more choices when contracting for construction or maintenance of nonhazardous dams, helping reduce business overhead costs.
· Safeguards the personally identifiable business records of livestock and poultry operations while preserving the authority of the State Veterinarian to make information public to maintain public health or implement animal health programs.
Senator Brent Jackson
North Carolina Senate